Welcome to the Sunday Stills feature, hosted by Terri Webster Schrandt. This week’s theme is Diamonds and Quartz.
Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad’s most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn’t give up on its secrets easily.
When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold.
Jet is a protagonist with a difference, a deadly but complex personality who has suffered one of the worst experiences. She has intellect and depth of character and, as a trained operative is adept with all manner of weaponry, not to mention hand to hand combat. In her past as a covert special agent for Mossad she fought terrorism and corruption and, after faking her own death, hoped that part of her life could be laid to rest. But someone knows she is still alive. Someone who has very close and personal links to a past assassination and wants revenge at any cost.
As she shouldered through the hanging beads that separated the back from the storefront, a garrote looped over her head and she barely got her left hand up in time to keep it from closing around her throat…….Ignoring the pain from the garrote she stabbed behind her head with the jagged edge of the broken bottle, again and again, then heard a muted exclamation as a warm gush sprayed against her upper back.
The story opens with an assassination attempt that draws Jet back into her old life and there is really only one person who can help her. Her former lover, David. Travelling to various exotic, and not so exotic, locales in several countries, they try to work out who wants Jet dead, and why, whilst trying to stay ahead of the villains. Plenty of action, clear and colourful depictions of weapons and fighting scenes which paint a vivid picture of operatives in combat, living on the edge and never quite knowing where, or when, the next attack will occur.
Jet’s backstory is filled in with flashback chapters which add to the overall picture and the connection to the character. Russell Blake’s excellent and very descriptive writing is fascinating, solid and flows seemingly effortlessly, dropping the reader (or listener) right in the middle of the story, which is completely over the top and sheer escapism but that’s what makes it such a fun and enjoyable experience. A surprise twist at the end means I have to get Jet #2!
Twenty-eight year old Jet, the former Mossad operative from the eponymous novel JET, must battle insurmountable odds to protect those she loves in a deadly race that stretches from the heartland of Nebraska to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., from the lurid streets of Bangkok to the deadly jungles of Laos and Myanmar.
Jet is coerced by a prominent CIA operative into agreeing to assassinate former member, Matt Hawker, who absconded with a fortune in diamonds. The previous attempts failed and if Jet wants to see her daughter again she must succeed.
The only jarring note in the story is the way Jet spirits her daughter away from the adoptive parents. At two years old Hannah would be aware that Jet is a stranger and would, I imagine, want the people she thinks of as her parents. But that aside, it’s another wild and entertaining ride with Jet, the super heroine, taking on all comers with an assortment of weapons and despatching them in good style in her mission for justice and revenge.
Her assignment takes Jet to Thailand, into the worst the country has to offer, where anything and everything available for a price. The descriptions of the sex industry and more especially, child prostitution, is horrifying and hopefully greatly exaggerated. Jet’s search leads her from Thailand to Bangkok and into the dangerous jungles of Myanmar and Laos where she locates her target but finds all is not as she believed. Conspiracies, drug lords and the despicable aspects of humanity all adding to the surprises in the fast-moving plot.
We get to see another side of Jet in this story, softer and more compassionate, especially when dealing with children, and showing more emotion generally. But just when she thinks there’s a second chance at love the unthinkable happens again.
Braden Wright has a nice narrative style and good characterisation and I like Russell Blake’s succinct and descriptive writing very much.
Driving home after being kicked out of college, Tucker meets and picks up the mysterious Corinne Chang at a rest stop. Infatuated, and with nothing better to do, he ends up with her in St. Louis, where he gets a job as a chef in a Chinese restaurant. Even though he’s a gwai lo—a foreign devil—his cooking skills impress the Chinese patrons of the restaurant, and his wooing skills impress Corinne when she joins him there as a waitress. But when Chinese gangsters show up demanding diamonds they believe Tucker’s kind-of, sort-of, don’t-call-her-a-girlfriend stole, he and his friends—which luckily include a couple of FBI agents—have to figure out just who is gunning for Corinne and how to stop them. Good thing Tucker is a Mandarin-speaking martial arts master who isn’t afraid to throw the first punch.
The story is narrated by Tucker, lately of Beddingfield College, who happens to be a highly skilled Chinese chef, a martial arts practitioner and he also speaks Mandarin. After picking up hitchhiker Corinne Chang, a gemologist from Montreal, on his way to St Louis to hook up with his best friend, Langston Wu, they are entangled in a caper involving criminals, diamonds, murder and the FBI.
Each chapter begins with one of Tucker’s rules, of which he seems to have an unending list, relating to unfolding events..
Rule #19: Never pick up strangers at a highway rest stop unless they speak Mandarin…
…She reached over and took the strap of her duffle and stood up.
“Fine,” she said. “But I’m accepting a ride from you not because I believe a word you’re saying but because I just think it’s unlikely I’m going to be in danger from anyone who uses a word like ‘exsanguination.’”
She followed me out to the lot behind us, tossed her duffle into the rear of the car and sat in the passenger seat, clicking on her seat belt.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
I backed out of the lot and threaded through the parking lot to the exit back onto the I-93. “St Louis, Missouri,: I said, “by way of Massachusetts. How about you?”
“Buffalo, New York. By way of any way I can get there.”
Tucker is a charming protagonist, if a little unconventional, full of quick, witty dialogue, tough yet sensitive. The banter between him and Corinne is fun and their attraction to each other is touching. Original and off-beat characters, Chinese culture in-depth and romance, sometimes it’s a refreshing change to have a more lighthearted mystery without the deep and dark aspect. The action scenes with Tucker using xing-i, his preferred form of martial arts, are well written and very interesting.
The author is unmistakably very knowledgable about Chinese food, it’s preparation and cooking, as well as the workings of a Chinese restaurant kitchen. It was interesting to follow ‘a day in the life’ of a chef and fun to have an insider’s view of the kitchen and what goes on, especially the insults that are thrown back and forth as a matter of course and in a non serious way.
For me, a little more time could have been spent on the plot and the characters, the cookery and food descriptions, although incredibly and deliciously detailed, seemed to take over at times and overshadow the main story.
MacLeod Andrews delivers one of his consistently excellent performances to make this an entertaining and fun narrative.