Widower and war hero George McKlane rattles around his luxury canal-side home in the Palm Beach area of Florida. Rich, yet lonely, his son suggests it’s high time George sold up and downsized. Most folks he meets are deferential, apart from the mobsters, small-time crooks and other slippery customers who seem to inhabit the swamp of what is high end Florida realty.
Alas, something isn’t quite right in paradise when a too good to be true offer on George’s house comes with a few strings attached. And, as the synopsis states, ‘the only person who can save him is the person hired to kill him.’
The author immerses the reader into his story world, from the mountains of Appalachia to the Florida Everglades, with skill and professionalism. He’s an engaging storyteller and this is highly polished and well written.
The characterisation, particularly of Antony Silberg, the antagonist is superb. He’s a three-dimensional villain, right down to his nasty casual racism towards George’s employee Sharonda. She too is a wonderfully nuanced character, giving as good as she gets, batting Mr Silberg’s words straight back at him.
If you like your protagonist to be the all-American hero, you will enjoy the characterisation of George McKlane, but for this cynical reviewer’s taste, he was a little too perfect. I was itching to see him do something naughty, even if it was to take a medication he wasn’t supposed to, that he’d slipped past the controlling Sharonda, as the only bad thing he does is hide a few chocolate bars. I’d also like to see inside George’s head a little more, now that he is no longer obeying orders. All the characters though, including George, are further enhanced by their credible and realistic dialogue.
So we come now to the thorny problem of exposition, and in particular, the use of flashbacks. No matter how well written, as they are in this book, flashbacks are expository, slowing the story down. When used sparingly, flashback reveals character and or backstory, in order to enhance the plot of the main story. Frequent flashbacks can be a sign that the status quo in the present story world has been disrupted and by trying to make sense of his past, the character can get on with his future. But, George’s state of mind seems remarkably well balanced in his present world. And the reason he has these flashbacks, we are told, is because of a side effect of his particular medication, Prednisone. For the benefit of the plot though, it would work better if the flashbacks were shorter and written as fragments, which is the way that most of us actually experience such things. There is enough material in the Korea sections for a whole other story as there are seven long flashbacks. The narrative summary, used as a storytelling device, made me think that I was reading an in-depth magazine feature article, rather than a thriller.
Some judicious pruning of the Korean sections would help up the pace, particularly in the first half of the book, which is a little slow,
which is a shame, because the last part is action-packed. There is also in the earlier half some unnecessary repetition. One example is where, through the eyes of Martha we are given the full tour of George’s house and the artefacts in the War Room, then the reader sees the same objects again, only this time from Anthony’s point of view.
An impressive novel that has been professionally copy edited and proofread.
Four and a half stars.