Monday, October 7, 2013

The Janus Reprisal - Jamie Freveletti

   2012; 430 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Book #9 (out of 10) in the “Covert-One” series.  Genre : Action-Intrigue; Thriller.  Overall Rating : 6½*/10.

    It’s a lousy night to be in Brussels.  Bombs are going off at the train station, the airport, and the International Criminal Court.  And terrorists have taken over a hotel where a worldwide conference on viruses and bacteria is being held, and they are killing everybody staying there.

    Colonel Jon Smith is one of the guests at the hotel.  He’s a renowned microbiologist, so his attendance at the conference makes sense.  But he’s also a Covert-One agent.  And it appears a couple of the terrorists are singling him out for elimination.

What’s To Like...
    If you’re looking for bangs and booms, spies and chases, and a save-the-world scenario, The Janus Reprisal is your kind of book.  The action starts literally with the first sentence and doesn’t let up.  The combined career of special-ops agent and microbiologist is kewl (akin to being a PhD astrophysicist and the lead guitarist in the band Queen).  The underlying scientific premise of how to spread the boogers is original, at least to me.  There is a smattering of humor and a smidgen of romance; both are blended into the storyline nicely.

    Alas, there are weaknesses.  The characters are all either white-hats or black-hats, and anyone from Pakistan is worse-than-black.  The Ultimate Evil dude has no redeeming traits at all.

  The writing itself is good, but the storytelling falters.  There is a “mole” in the good-guys crowd, but you the reader will figure out who it is long before our heroes do.  There really aren’t any plot twists, and the ending seems rushed and contrived, with all of the baddies conveniently gathering in one place for easy resolution.  And ignore the title; it has virtually nothing to do with the story.

    YFKM (“You’re Freaking Kidding Me”) moments abound.  Here’s a couple.  (a.) The conference attendees apparently bring viruses/bacteria for show-and-tell.  Really?  I rather doubt that.  (b.) You can apparently get a sniper, in Brussels, at night, at a moment’s notice; and he will instantly know where to position himself to get a kill-shot.  He also seems to have a cloak of invisibility.  (c.) Our female lead is a savvy techie, yet can’t figure out how Smith can constantly track her every time she turns on her tablet to do stock transactions. There are a bunch more YFKM’s; you can read them in the Amazon reviews.

    “It looks like they may be after me.  Or at least someone is.  There’s a dead guy in my room carrying photos of me, Peter Howell, and a woman that I can’t identify.”
    “A dead man?  Did you kill him?”
   “I didn’t touch him.  He just . . . died.”  (pg. 7)

    She reached for her tablet.
    “Do not touch that thing.  It’s supposed to be turned off.  In fact, let’s just throw it away.”
    Nolan shook her head.  “I refuse.  My whole life is loaded onto this hard drive.”  Smith wanted to grab it and throw it across the room.
    “I’m going to have real trouble going dark while I’m around Ms. Nolan.  She refuses to give up her computer,” he said to Marty.  “Says it’s her whole life.”
    “I think I could love this woman,” Marty said.  (pg. 219)

How is it that if there is any disaster in the world at any given time, you’re there?”  (pg. 34)
    As can be seen on the book cover, The Janus Reprisal is written by Jamie Freveletti on behalf of the Robert Ludlum estate, who want to remind you that Ludlum is the author of (some of) the Jason Bourne books.  I’m sure this is a savvy marketing strategy, but Ludlum novels were known for their complex plotlines, compelling writing, and “gray” characters.

    None of that applies to TJR.  I recognize it is a daunting task to write a novel on the level that Ludlum did, but if you’re going to namedrop on the cover, then you ought to at least make an effort to emulate his fortes.  The Janus Reprisal is too straightforward and simplistic to have his name associated with it.

    6½ Stars.  Add two stars if you prefer action-thrillers that don’t require much thinking.  Subtract one star if you haven’t figured out yet that Robert Ludlum has been dead for a dozen years now, and any “new releases” that bear his name really aren’t penned by him.

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