TO THE LIONS by Chuck Driskell


A Gage Hartline Thriller
Email this review


Things don’t go as planned when a mercenary is sent to prison to protect a Spanish mobster’s son in the author’s espionage thriller, the second to feature Gage Hartline (The Diaries, 2013, etc.).

Former Army soldier Gage, having just completed a job, forgoes a much-needed break for a payoff that could reach seven figures. Ernesto Navarro, a gangster in Barcelona, wants Gage to take up residence in Berga Prison, where he fears his son, Cesar, may be targeted by a rival syndicate. Gage reluctantly agrees, mostly to help Justina, a Polish woman he’s rescued from a Russian club. Once inside, the cautious mercenary has no choice but to trust others—especially when he learns that the three men previously sent inside are dead. A character infiltrating a prison as an undercover will be familiar terrain to many readers, but Driskell’s narrative is crisp with innovation. We’ve read a third of the book before Gage even sets foot inside the prison, during which time he romances Justina, giving the protagonist two convincing reasons for making it out alive—love and financial stability. Suspense builds when Gage waives the option of a monthlong prison stay to assess Cesar’s predicament, choosing to remain for up to two years, which will ensure Cesar’s survival and bring Gage a considerably larger paycheck. Inside the prison walls, the white-knuckled anticipation grows. The former soldier dodges brutal attacks from armed prisoners (even his own cellmate) and must rely on the warden, Capitana de la Mancha, who seems no less corrupt than the inmates. Gage’s eventual and inevitable departure from Berga is exhilarating; it’s easier getting inside the prison than getting out. Action scenes, from prison brawls to gunfights, vibrate with intensity. But it’s the well-defined characters who make the story something exceptional; e.g., Gage, the benevolent hero, dispatches a group of thugs tormenting a younger boy within the first 10 pages; and Xavier Zambrano, leader of Los Leones (the syndicate gunning for Navarro and his son) and the indisputable villain, ends a soured business deal by threatening a man and humiliating his wife.

Scorching action and a dog-eared plot that’s been wholly re-energized.

Publisher: Autobahn Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


NonfictionINSIDE by Michael G. Santos
by Michael G. Santos
by Carlos Zanón