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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Saturday, June 15, 2013

John Purkiss Tracks an Illicit Gunrunner in the Middle of the Baddie's Haven. . .

By Tim Stevens

Print Length: 35 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00ARLDYFU


If you are looking for an espionage short that is completely engrossing but just long enough to last through your commute, Haven is a good bet. 

It is another of Tim Stevens' yarns about John Purkiss (Ratcatcher, Delivering Calaban), the lone wolf counterintelligence agent whose job is finding British spies who have decided to augment their pay packets by selling their information or their services to the other side.

Tim Stevens,  writer of first-rate thrillers.
In this quickie, Purkiss is on holiday in Malta when he spots Oleksander Motruk, a former Ukrainian secret policeman turned weapons trafficker that is still on MI6's most-wanted list.  Purkiss follows the baddie and gets a line on where he can be found, then reports what he has learned to the local Secret Intelligence Service agents, figuring to go back to his vacation once he has alerted them.

But Purkiss finds little welcome at the local SIS detachment. And when he later spots one of the British agents meeting with Motruk, he launches his own investigation. What he finds are Sicilian gangsters, an illicit arms shipment and a double-double-cross.

Unlike Stevens' Purkiss novels -- or his book about the exploits of Martin Calvary, Severance Kill -- Haven is short and relatively uncomplicated. Stevens manages to deftly sketch the locations where the action takes place and conjures a quick vision of each of the major characters without deploying excessive descriptive prose, opting instead to pack the most action possible into this relatively short novelette.

In doing so, Stevens shows himself a student of the pulp masters by  following Raymond Chandler's famous advice, "when in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand." Each short section ends with a cliffhanger of some sort, with the effect that the pages seem to just fly by.

This is fortunate, indeed, since it makes Haven a lively yarn that is brief enough to give a Purkiss fan his or her fix without requiring the time commitment needed for Stevens' longer works.

Five nooses.


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