Monday, June 16, 2014

Dani Britton Is On the Run in Redemption Key


Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

In The Widow File: A Thriller, S. G. Redling introduced a young data analyst named Dani Britton who worked for an exclusive and secretive security company near Washington, D.C. One afternoon, while Dani was away from the office, virtually all of her co-workers were murdered in an effort to conceal some of the work that the company was doing. The villains behind the attack on Dani's firm then sent a savage hit man named Tom Booker to finish the job by eliminating Dani. Booker failed in the effort, and both he and Dani wound up badly injured in the course of his attack on her.

Nine months later, Dani is now mostly healed, but she still bears both the physical and psychological scars of the attack. Determined to put her past as far behind her as physically possible, Dani takes a job at a fishing camp called Jinky's on Redemption Key in south Florida. She's basically doing grunt work--cleaning rooms, making repairs, wrangling kayaks and tending bar. She's also vigorously working out, attempting to get back into shape and otherwise trying to keep her head as far down as possible.

A place like Redemption Key naturally attracts a lot of odd, strange and curious characters. Many of them, like Dani, are on the run; not all of them live within the strict confines of the law. The owner of the place where Dani works is a guy named Oren Randolph. Randolph is basically a good guy and a good boss, but he does provide a service to various criminal elements. His fishing camp, far off the beaten track, is an excellent place for people to do deals that they'd rather not consummate in the light of day. For a fee, of course, Randolph provides the meeting room and serves as a facilitator, keeping the peace between and among parties who are not always peaceful and who do not always trust each other.

Dani's area of expertise while working for the security company involved her uncanny ability to "read" people. Randolph soon recognizes her talent in this regard and begins assigning her to tend bar and serve food and drinks at the meetings he's facilitating. She can read the mood of the room and of the meeting participants and help Randolph keep things on an even keel.

Inevitably, though, sooner or later one of these complex negotiations is bound to blow up, causing major problems for everyone involved, Dani included. And when it does finally happen, it couldn't come at a worse time, because other dangerous threats from the life Dani fought so hard to leave behind are suddenly converging on her once again.

It would not be fair to say any more about the plot, but Redling has created here a cast of very intriguing, off-beat characters and dropped them into a well-drawn setting and a riveting story. The tension mounts with every page, and the climax is as unexpected as it is heart-pounding. This is another excellent entry in this young series.

Old Myths As Familiar As An Old Shoe

Odd and the Frost GiantsOdd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Odd and the Frost Giants is such a short and easy read, you'll gulp it down in an instant and be shouting to Neil Gaiman, "Next!"

This is the most childish Gaiman story I've read yet and that's saying something. But it's not saying something as negative as some might take it. Odd... is intended for the kiddies.

It's not a terrible introduction for youngsters into the realm of Norse mythology. In it, a crippled boy meets a few anthropomorphic animals who turn out to be outcast gods, who need this mortal's help in tricking their frost giant enemies so they can get back into Asgard.

Gaiman falls back on very familiar territory for this one, tapping Odin, Thor and his hammer, and the crafty conniver Loki in his usual role of mischief-maker. There is very little new or inventive stuff going on here in this mini adventure. It reads like a tv producer who's taken a classic episode of a popular show, rearranged the scenes a little, and presented it for your viewing pleasure.

And it is a pleasure! It just feels all too familiar.

Unlucky 7

Seven Wives and Seven PrisonsSeven Wives and Seven Prisons by L.A. Abbott
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Some one has said that if any man would faithfully write his autobiography, giving truly his own history and experiences, the ills and joys, the haps and mishaps that had fallen to his lot, he could not fail to make an interesting story." Well Mr. Abbott, I'm not sure that's true for everyone, but it's certainly true for you!

I knew nothing about Seven Wives and Seven Prisons, but with chapter subtitles like "My first and worst wife" and "My own son tries to murder me," it's been a long time since I got this excited about reading a book, and I wasn't disappointed.

In the early-to-mid 1800s, Abbott bounced around the United States northeast from one state to the next, getting married and - more often than not - getting thrown in prison because of that marriage.

"She said she was lonely; she sighed; she smiled, and I was lost."

Says Abbott, "I was a monomaniac on the subject of matrimony" and after reading a mere couple chapters you will believe him through and through.

The man seemed incapable of even looking at a woman without ending up married to her. Not bothering to get a divorce from his first wife caused many of his problems, as - even though he was still married to her - he continued to elope with other women. Dude needed to get his priorities in order. But time and time again, he fell into the same old trap, never seeming to truly learn from his mistakes: "As my readers know by this time, all experience, even the bitterest, was utterly thrown away upon me; I seemed to get out of one scrape only to walk, with my eyes open, straight into another."

Aiding and abetting him was his love of liquor, an underlying sort of disdain for authority and a fancy-free attitude, an almost vagabond's outlook on life. He may not be to blame for these tendencies, as it appears his father had a wayward nature that forced itself on young Abbott's upbringing. As a young man, he started off as an apprentice blacksmith to his father, moving with him here and there upon his father's whim.

And then - BAM! - Abbott just kinda became a doctor. As an author, he doesn't dally on the little details. He speeds up the timeline of his life so much that occasionally important questions like, oh I don't, "how did you become a doctor?" for the most part go unanswered.

After a while I was asking myself, like poor little drugged up David after the dentist on Youtube...

Is this real life?

This guy's life is almost too ridiculous to believe. He reminds me of Candide. All manner of mishap befalls him. At any second I was expecting him to get one of his buttocks chopped off. Granted, stories can sound like legend when only the most interesting highlights over the length of one's life are compiled into one tightly packed narrative. But in the very least, I would guess that Abbott is giving us a biased account of his side of the story, maybe with a dash of fisherman's-tale embellishment.

I've tried to verify the story, but there is scant info on the man. In the end, does it really matter? This is just a hell of a fun story. Read it and enjoy it.

If you're interested, you can find Seven Wives and Seven Prisons for free at Project Gutenberg: