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SAILOR by Tom Epperson

SAILOR

By Tom Epperson

Pub Date: March 27th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2892-2
Publisher: Forge

A former mob wife whose testimony put her abusive ex in the slammer flees witness protection in Oklahoma when baddies, including a corrupt and bungling federal marshal, start killing people around her and her young son.

To her rescue comes a reformed one-time mercenary in Los Angeles whose Zen outlook won't prevent him from protecting mother and son at all costs. Few thrillers start as ultra-violently as this one, in which characters good and bad get shot, stabbed and set on fire before the hero, known only as Gray, is barely introduced. Epperson, who wrote the film One False Move with Billy Bob Thornton and the noir-ish Hollywood novel, The Kind One, gives us several sets of competing mobsters and hit men, most of them in the category of dumb or dumber. They all want to lay their hands on Gina, former wife of imprisoned Joey Cicala, and the stolen diamonds she has in her possession. Joey is fine with killing her but wants his son, whom other bad guys see as prime goods for the sex trade, returned to him. It takes Gina a while to trust Gray, but ultimately she welcomes his military skills and his surrogate-fathering abilities. The book is something of a cross between Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels and Elmore Leonard's goon-filled crime books. Unfortunately, Gray couldn’t be a blander Reacher wannabe, and the book lacks Leonard's economy. Two-thirds of the way through, a long and unnecessary sequence tells of Gray's life-changing experiences on foreign soil, including the fictitious African nation of Kangari, where he was unable to save the love of his life. Possibly Epperson should have saved it for another novel.

As a novel of pursuit, this one has more than enough plot and characters to keep things lively, but without a charismatic hero, it never rises to a proper level of excitement.