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RED STICK TWO by Kenneth Kirkeby


by Kenneth Kirkeby

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

A sequel delivers a search-and-rescue tale in the Peruvian mountains.

Kirkeby’s (Red Stick One, 2014, etc.) novel catches readers up with Virgil Cleary, the main character from the author’s dynamic previous work, who, as a 38-year-old cattle farmer, doggedly supports his family of four with his wife, Michelle. Twelve-year-old Tom is eager to walk in his father’s footsteps by learning to shoot a shotgun and hunt for predatory mountain lions that are decimating Virgil’s herd. But fate intervenes with an offer the farmer cannot refuse. Recalling Virgil’s uncanny talent for searching out killers on the run years ago, a former intelligence chief offers him $100,000 to discover the whereabouts of a U.S. civilian being held captive by a band of South American “rebel jerks.” Despite his wife’s foreboding, he agrees to be immediately dispatched to the foothills of the Andes, where, with special agent Richard Creole, he quickly surveils the Peruvian terrain in search of The Shining Path. This rogue group of violent guerrillas plots to incrementally overturn the government by holding American engineer Paul Vogel either for ransom or as a bargaining chip. Equipped with false identification, Virgil soon becomes accustomed to the high-altitude exhaustion and heads off to sleuth out his target. Kirkeby’s talent for riveting suspense shifts into high gear once Virgil hits the ground running, assisted by young native guide Apolonio. They follow slim leads, dodge bullets and explosions, and outsmart their cutthroat opponents. Atmospheric, adventuresome, and layered with danger and palpable, twisting high tension, the story builds up to several narrative plateaus only to continue ratcheting up the excitement and the jeopardy that Virgil’s increasingly dirty job has embroiled him in. Vogel’s plight as a terrorist kidnap victim forced to spew prepared propaganda statements is also given heft in the multifaceted tale, adding more dimensions and balance to the plot. The author draws on the most enticing sections of his preceding novel and rejuvenates them in this rousing follow-up that will surely have suspense fans on the edges of their seats. Readers would do well to read the first volume of the series to familiarize themselves with Kirkeby’s cunning, resilient protagonist, who is even more engaging and thrilling to follow in this impressive successor.

Assured writing, a locomotive plot, and nonstop suspenseful action create a heady combination in a series that shows no signs of slowing down.