The description of the plot made my interest in this book (which I received at no cost from Netgalley and Mason Alley Publishing) a shoe-in, but it was the writing that knocked my socks off. "Wow," I said to myself at the end of the first chapter, and I said it again when I finished the last one. In between, I'll just say that for the duration, lunch, dinner and bedtime didn't always follow my usual schedule.
The author has a wonderful way with words, crafting sentences that are poignant, witty and insightful that made reading a delight. Do I think he occasionally tried a little too hard to be clever? Honestly, yes; but just as honestly, I was captivated nonetheless.
What I didn't realize at the beginning is that this is the third featuring Jake Travis, a Florida former special forces investigator. At the outset, I was a little bummed that I wasn't starting from the beginning as is my pretty much written-in-stone rule, but as it turns out, it was of no consequence. There are a few references here to people and places I assume happened in the first two, but each was satisfactorily explained and I never felt out of the loop.
This one begins as Jake and his girlfriend, Kathleen, are finishing up a vacation in Europe. Jake gets a call giving him a special assignment: an international assassin named Alexander Paretsky has been targeting loved ones of Special Ops agents - murdering them presumably in an attempt to scare the agents off. Of late, the assassin has been known to don the robes of a Catholic cardinal and take walks in a particular garden; in fact, that's where Jake is told to find him - and take him out.
Although Kathleen knows Jake's line of work full well, he doesn't want to ruin their vacation by admitting to her that he's spent part of the time on the job. But after the deed is done and he and Kathleen have returned to Florida, it turns out he "clipped the wrong bird" - the man he killed was a real cardinal, and a popular one at that. Among other things, that means Jake decides to 'fess up; as he expected, Kathleen isn't thrilled (although the killing didn't rankle her half as much as the fact that he took on an assignment while they were on vacation). She marches out, leaving him to wonder if she'll ever return while he reflects on the words and actions of the cardinal, who almost seemed to welcome his own death.
Once the investigation picks up steam (with help from a few of Jake's personable cohorts like partner Garrett and neighbor Morgan), clues lead to possible links between the cardinal, the assassin and a beautiful but mysterious woman. The truth remains elusive, but the team has to keep digging to find it before the assassin finds them. The ending wraps almost everything up neatly but leaves a couple of doors open a crack which, presumably, will open wider in the next installment.
And there will be one; according to the preview chapters at the end of this one, it will be titled Gale Force. Just for the record, I never read preview chapters no matter who the author is; I read so many books that by the time that next one is published, I've totally forgotten the preview so it's a total waste of my time. But in this case, it matters not - whenever it comes, I'm ready. Bring it on!
The Cardinal's Sin by Robert Lane (Mason Alley Publishing, July 2015); 368 pp.