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Friday, March 13, 2015


3 stars out of 5

I discovered this book through eReaderIQ Daily, where it was offered free not long ago. The description sounded interesting, so I did what I always do next - check the reviews at There were only a dozen, all with the highest possible rating. While that always gives me pause (as I've said many times before, I could round up that many friends and family members and ply a couple of sentences and a handful of stars out of them with a six-pack of beer), I decided what the heck and went for it.

About a month later I was looking for something relatively short to read while waiting for a new book from a favorite author to be released, and I turned to this one (it's just 205 pages). Before I started, though, I looked at the reviews once again. This time, there were 16  - 14 of them 5-star and two that were awful (one reviewer deemed it so bad he or she couldn't even finish it).

That didn't cheer me up, but if I've learned anything over my many years of reading, it's to not put a lot of stock in extremely high or extremely low ratings. And sure enough, I put this it square in the middle rating-wise. It's not great, but neither is it terrible; put another way, after reading it from beginning to end, I don't feel it was a waste of my time.

Based on what others said, I expected to find a ton of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors (a huge turn-off for me and one reason I hesitated to start the book, BTW). But while I did notice a few glitches (the main character "wrecked" his brain trying to understand and put "bate" on his fish hook and another came along "baring" bad news, for instance), for the most part all the technical stuff was where and how it should be.

Rather, what kept me from awarding a top-notch rating was in the story itself. A senior intelligence officer with the Bureau of Counter Spying Activities whose hobby is tracking the results of a national lottery learns, quite unexpectedly, that he's become a target for assassination by his own agency. He manages to survive the attempt and goes underground to try and ferret out an explanation for his sudden fall from grace. In the process, he uncovers the theft of millions of dollars from the lottery - and the race is on to see whether he can learn who's behind it before they find him again.

It's an intriguing plot, but it's carried out in a convoluted and confusing manner with writing that's a bit too ponderous for me; even after I finished the book, I had little sense of how the theft really was carried out. When I  read at one point, for instance, that "hundreds of thousands" of lottery forms were stored on two CDs, I had to wonder how that could happen; heck, I can't even fit half the photos I took on a two-day vacation on four CDs, let alone just two. The chapters jump around from various characters' perspectives as well, and it was hard for me to follow who's who. At no time did I make any meaningful connection with any of the characters, nor did I really care much beyond plain old curiosity what happened to any of them including the "hero."

That said, I was able to glean a general idea of what was going on, albeit mostly in the last couple of chapters and the epilogue. That was sufficient for me to conclude that this one's neither winner nor loser and most likely will be enjoyed by those who enjoy complicated plots. And besides, you know what they say: Different strokes for different folks.

Dangerous Bet: A Conspiracy Thriller by Jack Gardner (Amazon Digital Services Inc., February 2015); 205 pp.

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