The Missing Element: A James Becker Suspense/Thriller (Anglais) Broché – 8 mars 2010
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1. A plot that intrigues me. I was hooked on page one. The Missing Element kicks off with a kidnapping and it takes a frustratingly long while (in a good way) to learn the reason. By then the enjoyable subplots, false leads, and pace-chewing miscues had me as I'm-gonna-figure-this-out-or-die-trying sucked in as was protagonist James "Beck" Becker. And then the author wraps the story around convincingly-researched high tech espionage (another one of my push buttons) and I couldn't put it down. Now, this isn't Ludlum or Connelly, but for a lighter summer read, it works.
2. Characters who move me. Especially a protagonist who I'd either like to be (vicariousness has its joys) or that I'd like to meet with regularly at the corner pub, a worthy cast of sidekicks, and a bad guy that raises my hackles and makes me wish evil things upon. Hero, supporting cast, villain. Check, check, check.
The Missing Element actually has a dual hero in the husband-wife team of Becker and his affectionate and brainy wife Beth, and though the idea of a spousal partner crime-fighting team isn't anything new, Betcher writes it charmingly well, if not a little gooey at times. Clearly modeled after Spenser and Susan Silverman of the Robert B. Parker novels (perhaps my favorite long-running series), it'll take Betcher a few more Beck thrillers to capture the clever and effortless repartee Parker mastered. Also, though I trusted hero Beck's smooth confidence in the book's occasional danger-is-nigh moments, I'll want more of his government covert intelligence background in later books.
I loved Beck's reluctantly blasé, but fiercely loyal muscleman Bull and was pleasantly satisfied with his just-frequent-enough appearances on stage. And though the addtional local precinct cops and federal agent connections are typical for suspense thrillers these days, Betcher adds some needed life to his second tier cast and I'll hope they show up in the sequels.
One quality I appreciate in a writer of this genre is the ability to convince me I've figured out the enemy's identity, only to discover I was wrong. To accomplish this ALL of the potential villains need to flip my "vengence is due on this creep" switch. Again, Betcher rises to the task. And it's especially gratifying when the true foe ends up being the person you despised most all along.
3. A writing style that satisfies me. I'm a former English teacher, so I notice things like grammar, usage, mechanics, word choice, paragraph structure, use of plot devices, and all those other things you learned in high school. And the more I read top quality writing, the more I notice when a book falls short. The Missing Element is author Betcher's first book and kudos are due. Nicely done, John L. Betcher.
This thriller's sequel, The Covert Element, is queued up on my Kindle. I'm looking forward to it.