My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gage didn’t have friends. He’d led an emotionally isolated life, avoiding personal attachments, a mantra for survival. And the last thing he needed was disruption and exposure of the quiet retirement he’d settled into on Bequia, living aboard his schooner Wherever. He’d buried his past. Forged a new life. And in doing so broke his cardinal rule, he’d formed attachments. A burgeoning romantic relationship with the island’s police Superintendent Jolene Johanssen, whose love awakens dormant emotions and reconnects him to the world. A relationship he’s unsure he’s emotionally equipped to handle. And a close friendship with the discerning Commissioner of Police Mike Daniels, who perceives more regarding Gage’s past than Gage is comfortable with. And who lies in a coma, fighting for his life. In pursuing his friend’s shooter Gage becomes embroiled in the vicious world of narco traffickers, money laundering, and a possible nemesis from his past, threatening to upend his new life, resurrect his inner demons, and put the people he’s come to care about in the cross-hairs.
Dead Reckoning is easily the best indie book I’ve read in a very long time. With a strong, brooding main character endowed with a distinctive, self-assured voice, and vivid and poetic descriptions of both nature and sentiment, it is a tightly written mystery novel. I would even call it a spy/suspense novel, as it has flavours of other well-known espionage type books. The Bourne series comes to mind.
Smart knows his stuff. Whether it be sailing, flying, or island culture, it’s clear that he has intimate knowledge of them all. This adds a sense of authenticity to the story. As someone who hails from Québec, I was thrilled to note that Joleen, Gage’s love interest of Québecois roots, can curse with the best of us. And the island accents, which I also grew up with, brought about stabs of nostalgia. The mission-oriented parts also felt real, as the gear used and ‘shop-talk’ all come off as realistic.
I had difficulty with two things. The story opens with a very distinctive, tersely written style that felt truncated and left me disoriented. I had the feeling the abbreviated phrases were intended as a means of creating tension and, possibly, as a characteristic of the Gage’s inner thoughts. That said, as a whole, the writing is wonderfully rendered and carries the reader from page to page with ease, and it was the strength of the more traditional prose which enabled me to overcome the challenges faced at the opening.
The other issue is that I would have liked more action. There was a lot of dialogue, mission planning, mood/character establishing inner thinking, and smart inter-changes between characters, all of which were good. However, I wondered if those sections could have been trimmed in favour of more action-oriented scenes. The fight scenes are very well handled, choreographed in a way that is easy to follow, and the watching Gage take down the baddies was thrilling. I just wanted more.
Dead Reckoning is a must for anyone looking for an exciting, moody, mystery suspense story told from the point of view of a very compelling main character and played out in exotic locations. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.