My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was an interesting read. On one hand, it was an exciting, action packed thriller that was hard to put down. On the other hand, the author wrote in some loose ends and his portrayal of women in general leaves something to be desired, much to my surprise.
In previous books, former CIA agent John Wells saved the country and maybe the world from biological weapons, nuclear war, etc. Big stuff. So this one is on a smaller scale. He gets a call from his estranged son, Evan, who pleads with him to go to Kenya and Somalia to track down four college age aid volunteers who have been kidnapped. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But it is. He discovers a conspiracy on the part of the leader of this aid group to kidnap his own nephew and three others, hold them for awhile, and release them with the release of his new book, making him a best selling hero. But things don’t work out that nicely. First, the young people are all very unlikeable. Scott is a frat boy dick who gets away with anything. Owen wants Gwen, a vapid, beautiful blond sorority girl. And the other girl just seems to be along for the ride. So a Somali warlord finds them, kills the fake kidnappers, kills Scott when the kid mouths off to him, and takes the remaining three to his camp in Somalia to hold them for ransom. Wells figures this out. Problem. Corrupt Kenyan police arrest him for nothing at all, so he has to escape and now he’s being hunted by them. He’s trying to use his old CIA contacts for help locating the camp, which works out, and he goes there, one against 60 or 70 armed militia men. Seems a little unbelievable, but Berenson is such a great writer, he can have you believing just about any scenario he writes. And so he saves the day. As you knew he would. It’s more exciting than that, but I don’t want to give the plot away.
My problems are these: Wells went to Africa as a favor to his son, yet we never hear anything that results from this action. Do the two draw closer? Does his son forgive him for “deserting” he and his mom when he was little? We never find out. Additionally, John’s girlfriend Ann just seems to be a minor plot device that is literally useless. We never get to know her, so we really don’t give a crap when Wells is kissed by an African woman who’s after him (or so it seems). Screw Ann! I couldn’t care anything at all for her because the author hasn’t given her a remotely significant role to play in these books. Also, the women all seem to be pretty stupid in this book, led by the two college girls. Absolute airheads. If I were a feminist, I think I would be pretty ticked about this representation of women in the book. Moreover, there’s the Evan problem. He turns from this total nerd in love with Gwen into this vicious monster, willing to kill just about anyone and anything and it seems completely out of character for him. I had a hard time believing it.
So how do I rate this book? Considering all of the problems, it probably deserves three stars. But considering the action and how exciting this book is, it probably rates five stars. So I’m giving it four and going with that. If you like the John Wells character, you’ll probably like this book. Recommended.
Scott C. Holstad is the poetry editor of Ray’s Road Review.