I finished one of my current reads on Sunday, and most of another one. It felt so good.
There is nothing to a bibliophile like having time to read, and reading two hundred pages on a Sunday is the most refreshing kind of rest there is. Not just two hundred pages, but two hundred enjoyable and relaxing ones. There are some that aren't, let me assure you, but these were, and fueled me up to start in on a 900 page trilogy I'm supposed to review soon.
One book was a brand new non-fiction biography release, and one was a brand-new suspense fiction.
Since I like guilty pleasures, let's start with the suspense fiction today. I liked the other one very well, but putting the suspense fiction after Eric Metaxas' 7 Men is like serving homemade cake and then trying to pass around the store-bought version. Doesn't taste quite as good. So we'll talk about the guilty pleasure first and then ease into the really deep stuff.
Today's book review is about Strait of Hormuz by Davis Bunn, the third in the Marc Royce Adventures series. Though you could read these books as stand-alone novels, they are meant to go in consecutive order, and you would probably enjoy them, as well as Marc's character development, in the order in which they are written. The first in the series (and I think the best) is Lion of Babylon. The second, Rare Earth, I have reviewed here.
When he enters the art gallery, he finds someone has been there before him. The owner, Sylvan Gollet, lies dead on the floor, and Marc just has a moment to get out before he falls to the same fate.
The fact that a friend of his--a very good, former friend--shows up at the last minute to join him in his mission only complicates everything.
Before the story opens, Marc tells Kitra Korban that though he has a very great affection for her, his life mission is not to run an Israeli kibbutz community, and no matter how much she wants him to, he can't do it. Kitra, who thinks that to be happy she must have both the kibbutz and Marc, is very upset. And now they have to work together, without 'official' government sanction, on a very confusing case. And while they're working together, they decide to determine the future of their relationship at the same time.
Don't worry. This plot is quite good, and Bunn wrote it well.
Marc's able to piece a little more of the case together following the murder, and it all begins to take shape. The money isn't being used by the gallery owner at all. There's someone much bigger behind this, selling art for high prices and squeezing financial help out of his minions. After Gollet is removed, the mastermind turns to Rhana Mandana to sell more art for him. And what this man is financing is missile production in Iran and North Korea. They've already produced the parts for the missiles, the parts are en route to the place where they will be set off, and Iran is readying to create an international incident. Not only with the United States, but also the nation of Israel.
All this much is obvious after a little research, and when Marc traces down the vessel bearing the factory parts for the missiles, he realizes just how great a threat they're facing. But some of the American government is not in agreement with Marc's supervisors. They think he's on the wrong track, and he has seven days before the US boards and searches an Iran vessel entering the Strait of Hormuz. Marc knows the vessel is a decoy, not only to provoke war, but also to keep US attention off the real target.
So he teams up with an Israeli nurse, a Swiss police officer, a Swiss intel agent, and a Iranian art gallery owner, to expose the truth.
Being a bibliophile and lover of classic literature, I must save my threatened reputation by saying that it is not my habit to read suspense fiction. But I like a good book too much to turn up my nose when I see it, and this series was hand-picked for several different reasons. I don't like all of Davis Bunn's works, but I think his career switch into suspense fiction was a very wise choice after he tried a run of the romance novels. He was made to write suspense fiction, and he does a much better job at that, and it feels more natural to his writing style. It's always neat to see when an author finds their niche, and he certainly found his. This is not lit fiction, folks, but it's a very good example of worthwhile pop fiction.
When you have suspense fiction with an Israel/Iran focus, chemical weapons, and international espionage, it has all the proper ingredients to grab people's attention. Strait of Hormuz is definitely an attention-grabber, and I found it quite enjoyable for a day's read. The plot was fairly original, and the romance was something fresh and new. There were only two paragraphs that were rather over-emotional, one from Marc's perspective and one from Kitra's, and they really weren't necessary to the plot. Understatement works better with these two characters, and felt the most natural. At first I really was dead-set against Marc and Kitra, though I knew it was inevitable, but Bunn persuaded me around to his viewpoint, and I was pleasantly surprised.
For the most part, though there are plenty of female government workers in this story, Bunn does not promote a feminist agenda with them. But in spite of that, there are generally a couple of times where I don't like the female attitudes, and in this book I didn't like first conversation that Marc had with some Washington high-ups. There were two men and a woman, and the woman overruled one of the men every single time he opened his mouth. This is not how ladies should behave, even in the workforce, and I do hope that most readers would recognize that this example is not one to be imitated.
I loved the names in this book. Some books stand out specifically for their good names, and this is one of them. Rhana, the Iranian art gallery owner, changed her name to one of Persian origin because of her life mission. Kitra, Marc, and Amin--each adds a spark of life to the characters' personalities. Names are almost as vital as personalities, and I like ones that are easy to pronounce, and yet different from the normal selection.
I would have liked to see Rhana's past get just a little more forefront in her plot. I read most of the book in one day, and I still missed the connection between her father's death and her thirst for revenge. I'm known for missing the obvious in my quest for the deeply hidden, but I think the explanation was only given to the reader once, and it would have been easier to remember along with everything else that was happening if it had been reiterated again. Rhana's motives and inner struggles are a huge part of the information that Marc finds, so it's important the reader is able to stay connected.
I think my favorite part of this book, besides a good adventure, was the faith of the main character. Bunn always had it in this series, and I applaud him for the way he incorporated it so openly. He didn't hide Marc's faith, but often created whole scenes around his inner character growth. Quietly folded in amongst shattering bullets and assassins, there are times where the characters have genuine moments of surrendering to the Lord. Not the cheesy kind, but facing their Creator in a real and authentic way, (especially on Marc and Kitra's part), and finding new depths to Him, through Scripture and prayer. Letting go of their own desires, their own attempted manipulations, and praying that the Lord would show them the path which they should follow. Hard to believe, I know, with suspense fiction. But it's there all the same.
If you're ever in need of a quick and light read, Davis Bunn's Strait of Hormuz should fit the bill. It will give you the flash of adventure you're craving, and a main character worth making the acquaintance of.
*This book was given to me for free by the Bethany House Blogging for Books program. I was not obligated to give a favorable review, and have expressed my honest opinion.*