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February 13th, 2016

Book Review: Fast Track To Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel [Feb. 13th, 2016|01:29 pm]
thespyreport
Fast Track To Glory
Tomasz Chrusciel
Publisher: Agato House, January 2016
ISBN: 978-0992957421
ASIN: B01A75N0X6
http://www.amazon.com/Fast-Track-Glory-International-Adventure-ebook/dp/B01A75N0X6

by Wesley Britton

This review was first posted at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/jh01Ak




One of my favorite delights when reading through a new thriller is running into original surprises and unexpected twists and turns. While it takes a few chapters to begin all that, Tomasz Chrusciel did take me places I didn’t expect to go with plot twists I didn’t see coming in Fast Track to Glory.

In the opening chapters, I wondered if I was experiencing a clone of the Covert One or Sigma Force books where agents are on the hunt for some ancient artifact that has the power to change the world, and not for the better. The set-up certainly looked like a conspiracy was at play when three European officials summoned professor Nina Monte to verify the age of a tablet found in a galley sunk at sea in the 15th century. But, in short order, the alleged conspirators disappear and are replaced by explorer Lammert van der Venn and his deadly quest to learn the tablet’s secrets. It’s his possible connection with a possible homicide that prompts happy-go-lucky Italian hotel manager, Alessandro Pini, to investigate the circumstances of his friend’s death and becomes a fly in van der Venn’s ointment.

From that point forward, Fast Track to Glory joins the tradition seen in the film versions of The 39 Steps, Three Days of the Condor, and The Bourne Identity. By that I mean we have an unlikely pair of very opposite types, in this case Monte and Pini, thrown together in a relentless chase from a villain who wants both a translation of the secrets of the tablet and to eliminate those who know too much. From Italy to Austria and across India, the learned professor and the more earthy Pini come closer and closer together while escaping the close calls of their pursuer.

I admit, it takes some time to learn just what that tablet is all about. For most of the story, it seems like it includes mystical incantations that would provide spiritual enlightenment, not any corrupting power over others. But, what would a mystery be if we knew what the end game would involve? Without question, this is a book full of vivid, rich, and believable descriptions, especially in the chapters set in India on trains and in crowded city streets. There’s no lack of character development which sometimes crosses the line into interesting, if off-track, digression.

It’s hard to quibble with an unlikely romance that unfolds in a fast-paced chase set in exotic locations that are detailed in a finely woven, intricate international tapestry. Gratefully, Fast Track to Glory doesn’t fulfil the expectations portrayed at the outset, but instead travels a lesser followed road.
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Review: Left For Dead by Peter Vollmer [Feb. 13th, 2016|01:32 pm]
thespyreport
Left for Dead
Peter Vollmer
• Publisher: Acorn Books; 1.0 edition (February 2, 2016)
• ASIN: B01BFZYGFS
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BFZYGFS

by Wesley Britton

First posted at BookPleasures.com:
http://goo.gl/xIHHmb


While I might not have been precisely the first reviewer to discover the books of Peter Borchard a.k.a. Peter Vollmer, I must have been among the early birds. I was delighted to review his first two thrillers, Diamonds are but Stone (2011) and Relentless Pursuit (2013). For both, I noted Borchard was very much in the mold of fellow South African writer Geoffrey Jenkins in both style and substance. This connection was even more overt when Borchard/Vollmer was commissioned to update Jenkins’ character, Commander Geoffrey Peace, in last year’s Per Fine Ounce, a book designed to be a reworking of a Jenkins James Bond continuation novel that was never published.

Again using the Vollmer pen name, the author returns with his own original characters in Left for Dead, and I’m again reminded of Geoffrey Jenkins for several reasons. First, his story is set on the Skeleton coast of South Africa in the same time period as Jenkins debut novel, 1959’s A Twist of Sand. Second, many of Jenkins’ stories were sea adventures, and much of Left for Dead takes place on fishing trawlers with occasional encounters with a Russian ship. Most importantly, Geoffrey Jenkins was not primarily a spy novelist despite his friendship with Ian Fleming. Instead, his canon includes some 16 adventures that only sporadically involved espionage.

Likewise, Vollmer’s yarns are equally varied in their settings and plots. For example, despite the placement of Russian gun runners on the South African coast, Left for Dead is much more a character-based adventure with young Arnold Schonbrunn surprised to learn his late uncle has bequeathed him the family fishing business. Equally surprised is the uncle’s stepson, Bruce McAllister, who believes the business should have been given to him. From that point forward, Bruce sets out to get the business by hook or deadly crook even as his sister, Jocelyn, is attracted to Schonbrunn.

Vollmer really excels with his rich, vivid descriptions that clearly establish the day-to-day life of South African fisherman. For the first half of the book, there’s little plot as Schonbrunn learns about his new life and the crew of his ship. The second half centers on Bruce McAllister’s plot to kill Schonbrunn in the jungle, and here’s where the action picks up.

The strength of the book is Vollmer taking readers to a time and place few know anything about. Vollmer is extremely believable down to the most minute of details. The duel between McAllister and Schonbrunn is also well spun out including the very surprising conclusion. Left for Dead is not an action-packed thrill ride, but rather a slow burning personal drama occurring in a setting many will find far from familiar grounds.
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