Monday, January 12, 2015

Father Night - Eric Van Lustbader

   2012; 436 pages.  Book #4 (out of 5) of the Jack McClure series.  New Author? : No, but it's been a while.  Genre : Action-Thriller.  Overall Rating : 6½*/10.

    Oh to be able to be in two places at once!  Special agent Jack McClure’s protégé, Alli Carson, daughter of an ex-POTUS, has just gone missing in Washington DC, and at least one witness says it was an abduction.

    Jack should really drop everything and rush to DC to help find Alli, but he’s on assignment in Russia – helping to smuggle a top crime boss out of the country.  And that crime boss’s granddaughter just happens to be McClure’s lover, so he’s motivated beyond mere duty to see this job through.

    It would appear that the task of finding/rescuing Alli will have to be done by others.

What’s To Like...
    There’s action, more action, and no slow spots.  Eric van Lustbader hops between three main storylines – which we’ll call “Nona-Leonard-Alan”, “Jack-Annika-Dyadya”, and “Alli-Vera” – and it is easy to keep track of which is which.  The characters tend to be black or white but rarely gray, yet in fairness, a bunch of them flip from white to black and vice versa.  Also, a lot of them – both the good guys and the bad guys – get killed off, which I think makes the story more realistic.

    Father Night is book 4 in the Jack McClure series.  I haven’t read the first three, and this is one of those books where I felt I was missing a lot by not reading the earlier books.  The author does fill in some of the backstory, but it’s in piecemeal fashion.  Still this is a standalone novel, with a teaser at the end for book 5, Beloved Enemy.

    The color-flipping characters make for plenty of intrigue, and there are a number of mysteries and enigmas to entertain you, most notably the “spirit” of Jack’s dead daughter Emma, several sets of identical twins, the uber-secret “3-13”,  “KWIFA”, and “Ashur had a little horse”.  OTOH, the evil Nazi scientist with his evil Nazi experiments is an overused plot device, and the President of the United States attending a clandestine meeting in a Walmart parking lot is just not believable.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Tony (adj.) : fashionable among wealthy or stylish people; posh.
Others : Scrim (n.); Corniche (n.)

    The General regarded Waxman with carefully concealed distaste.  He seemed pale and weak, unfit for anything outside a well-ventilated room, but, as he had said, they all had their roles to play, all of them.  Each brought a different expertise to the enterprise.  They were bound not by friendship, but by need.  Better by far than friendship, the General judged.  It was unthinkable to betray someone you needed.  (pg. 18)

    “My enemies are extremely determined.”
    Kurin turned to him.  “What, now you’re trying to talk me out of helping you?”
    “We simply want you to be aware of the possible consequences of sheltering us,” Annika said.
    Kurin spread his hands.  “But you see, sheltering is what we do.  Without that, what are we?  A group of freaks, performing for the yokels.”  (pg. 122)

 “I don’t believe this.  How the fsck did I land in a Kafka novel?”  (pg. 168)
    Unfortunately, what Father Night lacks is a coherent and suspenseful plotline, and all the thrills, spills, and plot devices can’t cover this up.  When the dust settles and bodies bleed out, the reader has to ask “What was accomplished?”  And the answer, sadly, is “Not much.”  There was a sinister plan, but the bad guys aborted it themselves. Our evil Nazi scientist is stopped, but his nefarious work remains intact.  All of the Evil Forces are still functional, despite some casualties.

    There were too many WTF moments and they often felt contrived and/or pointless.  Emma-the-ghost shows up several times, but seems capable of giving only pep-talk counsel.  Alli and Jack have secret “code phrases” which can be used in a crisis.  One of them means “I’ve hidden something useful somewhere.  Go find it.”  Yeah, that’s gonna be real helpful when the baddies are chasing you through a warehouse.

    The endings (there are two of them) felt rushed and WTF.  A crack kill-team with superior weaponry and the element of surprise can take out a whole cadre of Secret Service agents, but not a couple of relatively inexperienced girls.  Wow.  Similarly, Jack succeeds against his highly-trained opponents with uncanny ease.

    6½ Stars.  I came away feeling like Eric van Lustbader’s main purpose for Father Night was to move some of his recurring characters around so as to set up the next book.  Other than that, there’s lots of action, but very little substance.  Yet who knows how much I’m missing by not having read the first three books?  Add 2 stars if you are tackling the series in order.

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