Monday, April 23, 2012


By Mike McNeff

When Robin Marlette and his Arizona narcotics unit force down a smugglers plane, they discover not only bribe money bound for a powerful Arizona lawyer, but end up killing the brother of a powerful Mexican drug lord. Marlette begins an operation to give the money over to the lawyer and arrest the parties paid off. However, the drug lord has plans for revenge. Dealing with pressures from higher up, within his own family, and threats from outside, Marlette fights a battle for survival and justice.

I like the take on a familiar theme. GOTU (Guardians of the Universe). The setting is not in Washington, or some exotic locale, but in Arizona, where border issues and drugs are a real problem. This shows how one state’s handling of an operation can affect the nation.

Robin Marlette: 42, black hair, supervisor and Sergeant of the Arizona Department of Public Safety Narcotics Special Enforcement Unit, also part of the DPS Swat Team, lawyer, started with highway patrol, private pilot, has a wife and children

Carl Walton: Arizona Republican, Phoenix attorney, into money laundering, bribery, extortion, married but not in love with his wife

Burke Jameson: 6’2”, American Indian, solid build, hunter/tracker, tracker in Vietnam, was in Green Berets, part of Marlette’s NSEU, private pilot, divorced twice, used to drink heavily

Tom Pearle, Captain and commander of the DPS Narcotics Enforcement Division, blond, blue eyes, square jaw, six foot tall, worked with Marlette in narcotics in the seventies

Bill Grassley: U.S. Customs Resident Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Office of Investigation, green eyes

Chris Fleming: FBI agent of 26 years with 5 years on the Hostage Rescue Team

Rodriguez-Lara: Mexican drug lord, parents killed when he was ten, committed numerous crimes to obtain wealth, including self prostitution

Angie Spurline: DEA agent, no family, attractive, Asian descent, sad eyes, new to the Phoenix area, husband under investigative quarantine

Lots of characters. Too many to mention all. The main ones have some good personality and background information. Marlette a kind of maverick whose risky schemes tend to make the higher ups nervous but he always comes through with a victory. I was disappointed, however, with his moment of weakness after harboring strong feelings for his wife throughout the book.

Many sentences sound a bit unnatural because McNeff will use contractions about half the time. There are individual voices, but many of the team members are indistinguishable. Understandable, though since there are a lot of characters.

A few punctuation and spelling errors. Profanity, but fitting the characters. One sexual scene. Tight actions scenes. McNeff did his homework on the hierarchy of law enforcement entities, weaponry, and technology. He does a nice balancing act between NSEU operations, home life, and points of view from other characters, without a lot of the drudgery of unnecessary secret meetings and miscellaneous conversations between conspirators (and here I mean Washington conspirators). McNeff generally stays on track and the minor sideline scenes added a few short branches that stayed connected to the plot. Scenarios and situations develop almost too quickly. The chapters’ lengths vary a bit. The story starts out on a high note, drops down for a bit, but it’s not too long before it starts a slow build up. For awhile, I thought about giving the book a purple belt because of the editing errors and many lulls between action scenes (I would have enjoyed more details in a few places, more tension). After completing the book, I felt it deserved a bit higher.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

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