Vinjamuri’s (Accidental Branding, 2008) first novel follows a Special Forces man on a quest to uncover the truth.
Michael Herne returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of his high school sweetheart. Mel’s death was ruled a suicide, but her reporter friend Veronica believes there’s more to the story and enlists Michael’s aid in unraveling the threads. Secrets on both sides trip up the investigation, which Michael knows he shouldn’t be digging into, but things suddenly get too close for comfort when Russian gangsters attempt to kill him during an early morning run. Michael’s elite military training comes in handy, and though he manages to escape, he reveals his former life as a Special Forces operator. Plunged into a world of Russian spies, child prostitution, kidnapping and the crooked deals that have kept his hometown afloat, Michael must uncover the truth that led to Mel’s untimely death. While many novels have dealt with elite military training, spy games and coverups, Vinjamuri’s work brings a fresh look at all three genres. Tight pacing offers plenty of suspense and surprise, and while the protagonist occasionally seems more superhero than mortal, it’s also clear why his superiors chose him for his line of work. Descriptions of the training Michael has received come through flashbacks that work well with the novel’s shadowy subject: overlapping mountainous upstate New York escape scenes with midnight jaunts halfway around the world to learn specialized moves from unlikely masters. The novel handles its dark subject matter straightforwardly, and while justice is certainly a theme, the hero also harbors a dark side. Michael may use his vigilantism for noble ends, but can justice ever truly be served by one man? The operator is not a blank slate, and Michael provides a satisfyingly complex character struggling with shades of gray even as he knows exactly what he must do.
Though Michael Herne laments his return to the life of an operator, readers may hail a new breed of hero.