USMC Lt. Rollie Waters remains mired in the misdeeds of a greedy and ghoulish cabal in Rich’s (Caravan of Thieves, 2012) second action-adventure novel.
As the saga begins, the crime uncovered in Thieves is the same but exacerbated. Waters’ con-man father, Dan, had uncovered a conspiracy that looted millions of Saddam’s dollars after the invasion of Iraq, all supposedly shipped home in caskets of troops killed in action. Dan was murdered by the conspirators, but Waters got revenge. That involvement brought combat veteran Waters to the attention of mysterious Maj. Hensel of SHADE (Shared Defense Executive), an uber-secret spinoff of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Hensel suspects the purloined money is to finance a conspiracy to control Kurd oil resources. Waters, SHADE-assigned to exhume graves to unearth the millions, becomes an assassin’s target. The shooting brings Waters’ investigation unwelcome FBI attention, and so Henley dresses Waters up as Robert Hewitt, oil speculator, and dispatches him to Houston to meet the self-styled king of Kurdistan. The action moves from Houston to Erbil, Iraq’s Kurd stronghold. Waters is pursuing a one-eyed Welshman named Bannion who has supposedly kidnapped Maya, his own ex-wife and the king’s daughter. Rich is a film writer, with a firm grip on pacing, always ready to stop and flesh out characters and then to pull a knife and draw a little blood. Waters is the perfect edgy, flawed hero—"loaded up five cylinders for Russian roulette with chivalry, gallantry, righteousness, sincerity and plain old lust"—and Rich’s supporting cast is solid. Bannion is Machiavellian evil. Gill, supposedly Bannion’s silent muscle, is three layers deep. Pushing credibility is Ethan Williams, a purported hippie drug dealer Waters once rescued in Afghanistan and who is now in Bannion’s employ. The adventure unreels in first person from Waters’ point of view, and Rich uses a nifty narrative device—Waters’ interior dialogue with his dead con-man father—to flesh out the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t machinations of the bad guys.
Above-average action-adventure with a touch of noir. This one is good fun.