Citizen Kill

Citizen Kill

Citizen Kill by Stephen Clark (Thriller)

This government conspiracy thriller involves a discredited former CIA operative who is seeking to get back into the agency’s good graces. To do so, he must commit covert assassinations that go against his better judgment, killing American citizens who are suspected of, but not proven to be, radicalizing Muslims.

Equipped with an ice gun that shoots bullets of ice coated with a seafood toxin that stimulates a heart attack, Justin Raines begins killing Imams and others whose names are sent to him one by one by a CIA bigwig. Meanwhile, we also follow the newly inaugurated president of the United States, a reporter for a Washington newspaper, a young Muslim woman running a school for American Muslim children, various political figures, and some of Justin’s former CIA team members who form his current support system. While that may sound overwhelming, it’s not, with all but one of the narratives working well together to tell the story.

The one that did not work for me was the president, Savannah Reed. On Inauguration Day, during the parade, her 12-year-old son is killed when a bomb explodes along the route. Like any mother, she is devastated, but unlike a tough woman who has chosen to become the leader of the free world knowing the risks and responsibilities, she lasts one week in the White House and then transfers power to the Vice President and stays away for six months.

During that time, she befriends a young girl who lost her mother to the Inauguration Day bombing and is now in a wheelchair. When Savannah goes back to being president, she moves the child and her immigrant Bosnian father into the White House, along with Savannah’s own husband and teen-aged son. She helps the child with homework, takes her and her father along on political fundraisers across the country, and spends weekends with them dining in Washington restaurants. Then they and the first family all go to Camp David. Her husband is jealous, and then he’s not.

Unfortunately, all of this detail contributes nothing to the thriller’s plot. Instead, we watch a distracted, incompetent president live vicariously through a motherless child while everything around her goes down the drain. So much for being the first woman in the Oval Office.

If one can ignore that part, this is a book thriller aficionados will enjoy.  It has the requisite love story, some redemption, some justice meted out to the guilty, and some surprises. The story moves right along, the writing is fine, and it all wraps up at the end.

Grandma gives Citizen Kill three and a half stars. 3.5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Forbidden

Forbidden

Forbidden by F. Stone (Suspense/Thriller)

This is a complex and fast-paced thriller with strong main characters — a female Canadian paramedic with a tragic past who suffers from severe bouts of PTSD and a devout Muslim police captain working in a Middle Eastern city where corruption makes it hard to know whom to trust. The massacre of fifteen American aid workers brings the paramedic and the captain together as reluctant allies when both become targets of a local governmental cover-up of the massacre. The arrival of an American CIA Agent bent on finding out who killed the American volunteers adds another layer of risk, as he believes the captain may have masterminded the whole thing. Despite their differences in background and outlook on life, the paramedic and the captain must work together to find the true perpetrator. Along the way they also (no surprise) find each other.

The author did a lot of research to ensure authenticity in her portrayal of the region and Islam, and her respect for her subject matter is evident. She also consulted with weapons experts, police officers, and cultural experts, and uses her own experience as a paramedic to bring authenticity to her characters’ actions. She does a good job of getting inside the heads of both a woman with heavy emotional issues and a disillusioned and unhappy man struggling with violating Sharia law while protecting that woman.

The story is set in the year 2047 — most likely to allow for creation of a new Middle Eastern entity known as the Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories — but this is not a futuristic tale. Transportation, technology, medicine, etc. remain unchanged from 2017. Also somewhat incongruous is the fact that the paramedic is a “seer,” which pops up now and then, but has very little bearing on the story and, for me at least, compromised a character to whom I could otherwise easily relate.

My major complaint, however, is the book’s need for a good proofreader. While it did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the story, I did find many sentences that were missing articles (the, a, an) or prepositions. Punctuation was funky in places. More distracting were the occasional inappropriate or misused words, including “shoulder” where it should have said “soldier.” I had to read that one sentence more than once to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.

Normally, the issues named above would take an average story down to three stars, but I enjoyed the story itself a great deal and appreciate the author’s careful and extensive preparation to tell it.

Grandma gives Forbidden four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.