DARK SKY by Joel Canfield


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A former CIA agent tries to prove a dead war hero isn’t actually dead and runs afoul of a private security company that may want to silence him in this thriller.

Max Bowman hasn’t worked for the CIA in years, but his old employers still throw the occasional job his way. The latest is Gen. Donald Davidson, who hires Max to find his son, 1st Lt. Robert Davidson. News outlets from a decade ago reported that Robert died in Afghanistan, but an unnamed source has told the general that his son’s alive. Max is inclined to agree, especially after Robert’s sister, Angela, apparently desperate that Max not take the case, sends teenage son Jeremy to scare him off. And Max is surely making someone else nervous: before he can question a retired colonel, an SUV smashes into Max’s rental car and the colonel’s house explodes. Robert, it seems, had an association with a private military organization called Dark Sky. One of the company’s operatives, taking on actor Chuck Connors’ persona in The Rifleman, is gunning for Max, as well as anyone who may have pertinent information relating to Robert. Max teams up with Jeremy, who wants to help his grandfather, and they head to a Dark Sky training facility in Montana, hoping to find answers—if they can survive long enough. The decidedly unlikable protagonist will grow on readers. He’s undeniably gruff; his first-person narrative remains relentlessly sarcastic and insists on detailing bathroom excursions. Max’s bluntness, however, makes him the story’s most honest character—and most reliable, since he’s surrounded by people either lying or hiding something. His unsentimental relationship with girlfriend Jules, too, is more believable than most: their repeated phone conversations consist of Jules’ loud curses in lieu of sweet nothings. There’s not much mystery but definitely suspense, with the Rifleman-lookalike putting Max, Jeremy, and maybe a few others in unmistakable peril. Canfield (co-author of What’s Driving You???, 2015) likewise supplements his genre piece with a profound theme of fatherhood. Max and Jeremy take a detour to see the teen’s estranged dad, while the candid narrator ultimately reveals why his two daughters hate him.

A detective story whose imperfect protagonist boasts endearing qualities just below his rakish exterior.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9975707-1-7
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2016


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