Monday, May 21, 2018
Books

Review: Suzanne Brockman launches a satisfying new series in 'Do or Die'

Troubleshooters, move over. The Reluctant Heroes have arrived.

Fans of Suzanne Brockmann's military suspense novels need not worry. There's a new cast of intriguing, smart and buff characters (both the men and the women), but the adrenaline-driven pace and crafty plotting are pure Brockmann.

The hero, former Navy SEAL Ian Dunn, is on a mission to rescue two kidnapped children being held in the Kazbekistan consulate in Miami. Enter lawyer Phoebe Kruger, who is part of the deal because the FBI recruits Dunn, who is her client, from prison. They want Dunn because they can't send government teams into the consulate without creating an international incident. And they get Dunn because they offer a clean slate for him and his brother, who is in hiding under suspicion of murder.

All this is right out of the chute, leading readers to relax and think they can see clear to the end and just have to sit back and enjoy the ride.

But bestselling author Brockmann is just getting started. There's a whole new team to meet, with agents and family and in-laws and outlaws and, yes, even a baby. They're each unique, intriguing and developed as the action continues, with Brockmann deftly juggling their stories with quick timing that keeps the narrative from dragging.

A bonus for us on the gulf coast is that she has plopped down these new characters in her winter home, Sarasota, bringing her already vivid writing alive in settings we can easily visualize: The kingpin of the Mafia family the Dellarosas lives in Clearwater, the good guys travel I-75 past orange groves and cattle, a safe house is in a vacation rental with tired Florida decor and beach house mildew smell. The action is on land and in the water, under a dock and on a yacht. They even shop at Publix.

The mission to rescue the kidnapped children is almost on hold as Ian rounds up his team and deals with the feds, who want to make all the rules, the Mafiosi, who complicate everything, and intertwined relationships past and present. Each revelation adds a layer to the story and to Ian's character. And while Phoebe is pretty much dragged along for the ride, it gives her a front-row seat for getting to know this reluctant hero.

It should come as no surprise to Brockmann devotees that the most grounded relationship in the book is that of a gay couple, Aaron and Shelley. Aaron is the brother that Ian raised, and Shelley is a Dellarosa, albeit estranged. They've faced great trials to be together, and while their road is not smooth, they're devoted and work through problems. And they're the parents of the baby, who, thankfully, is not brought along on the shoot-'em-up parts of the mission.

While there is plenty of gunfire and hot pursuit, this story is more con game than military mission. Brockmann's nod to The Sting brings out the best in these characters and gives lawyer and love interest Phoebe some of her few interesting scenes, when she impresses Ian with her improvisational skills. Eventually the con runs its course and the mission turns military. They finally get around to going after those kidnapped kids and taking care of the bad guy.

As the team members dispersed, I looked forward to reading their tales, knowing that master storyteller Brockmann will deliver them as she did in the 17 Troubleshooters books. Of all the Do or Die characters, Phoebe is possibly the least explored, but she fulfills her duty as a reluctant hero: underscoring the message that whether you're a strong, independent woman or he-man SEAL, it's love that makes us all vulnerable. And as strong as we need to be.

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Events: Tarbell.org founder Wendell Potter to discuss, sign book

Book TalkTarbell.org founder Wendell Potter (Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It) will discuss and sign his book at 4 p.m. May 23 at the St. Petersburg Main Library, 3745 Ninth Ave. N.Applications are ...
Published: 05/21/18
The real stuff is how Tom Wolfe best used his write stuff

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om Wolfe’s best writing lifted real people into legend: car designers and astronauts and disciples of LSD. With that writing, Wolfe lifted himself into legend as well.The author of 16 books, including such bestsellers as The Right Stuff and The Bonfi...
Published: 05/18/18
Review: In Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider,’ evil can’t be true but must be true

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On a July day, Terry Maitland, one of the most popular men in Flint City, Okla. — high school English teacher, Little League coach, husband and father, recently named the town’s man of the year — attends a teachers convention in a city over an hour’s...
Published: 05/17/18

Events: Gilbert King to discuss ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ at Inkwood in Tampa

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Published: 05/11/18
Notable: As Mother’s Day nears, these new books are timely

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Published: 05/11/18
Review: A criminal’s confession is just the beginning in Michael Koryta’s compelling ‘How It Happened’

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It’s what every investigator hopes for: a tough case finally solved when one of the criminals confesses, providing solid details and even describing where the bodies are buried.Or, in Michael Koryta’s compelling new psychological thriller How It Happ...
Published: 05/10/18
Anthony Award nominees include Tampa’s Michael Connelly, Down & Out Books

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When the World Mystery Convention, a.k.a. Bouchercon, takes place in St. Petersburg in September and hands out its coveted Anthony Awards, the Tampa Bay Area will be well represented among the nominees.The award nominees, announced May 9, include Tam...
Published: 05/09/18
Updated: 05/10/18
Review: In Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon,’ the voice of slavery’s history speaks

Review: In Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon,’ the voice of slavery’s history speaks

It has taken Zora Neale Hurston’s book Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" 87 years to see print. But maybe it happened at just the right time.Just a week before the book’s May 8 publication date, rapper Kanye West opined in a TMZ intervie...
Published: 05/09/18
Review: Rick Bragg’s ‘The Best Cook in the World’ a loving food memoir about his mother

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When Rick Bragg told his mother that his new book about her would be titled The Best Cook in the World, Margaret Bragg protested: "I wasn’t even the best cook that lived on our road." Bragg writes, "I told her we couldn’t call it The Thi...
Published: 05/09/18
Review: Ace Atkins takes an artful turn with Spenser in ‘Old Black Magic’

Review: Ace Atkins takes an artful turn with Spenser in ‘Old Black Magic’

Art can bring us joy, enlarge our perspective, even enlighten us. Sometimes, though, it can make us behave badly.In Ace Atkins’ new novel, Old Black Magic, art makes people behave very badly indeed.Three works of art, to be specific. A Picasso sketch...
Updated one month ago