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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 22, 2013

Tim Stevens' Second John Purkiss Thriller Really Delivers

By Tim Stevens
Print Length: 240 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

Does anybody else remember MK Ultra, the CIA's covert program that used drugs and behavioral intercession as an intelligence-collecting mechanism? Ultra was the literally mind-bending scheme in which unwitting subjects were pumped full of LSD and other consciousness-altering chemicals, then subjected to various stimuli to gauge their reactions.

In Delivering Caliban, Tim Stevens has his counterspy, the "ratcatcher" John Purkiss, search for a renegade MI6 agent, Darius Pope, and stumble into an even more secret psychological warfare  operation. And while he is on the trail of his murderous quarry, Purkiss uncovers a nest of corrupt CIA agents who have been assigned to keep the program secret, engages in the requisite shoot-outs and hand-to-hand combat with the various baddies, and is faced with a plot to bomb an office building in downtown Manhattan that could be as traumatic for the U.S. as the al Qaeda attack in 2001.

All this while globetrotting locations in Europe, America and the Caribbean!

Delivering Caliban is another fine offering in the espionage genre by Stevens, who introduced his hero John Purkiss in the novel Ratcatcher last year. Caliban has plenty of action, a plethora of betrayals and some fancy footwork on the part of Steven's counterspy as he avoids the police, U.S. spies and the FBI while hunting for his British opponent, a spy who is seeking revenge for a past wrong and who proves himself almost as deft and devious as the book's hero.

It turns on a plot that is believable, and depicts both the protagonist and his opponent making just enough missteps to seem credible and human.

Author Tim Stevens shows no signs of flagging yet!

It is hard not to like a thriller in which the villain is portrayed as a human being and not a two-dimensional master criminal out to take over the world. Pope's motivation is credible and he is treated sympathetically by Stevens, to the point where the reader actually finds himself cheering on the bad guy at times. The target that Stevens has selected for his malefactor makes perfect sense in the context of the novel, and a secondary character who is critical to the plot but could have been inserted haphazardly in the story is actually given a complete backstory that helps to move the story alone.

Stevens will probably run out of gas on Purkiss as a hero eventually: no protagonist this outstanding can continue to inspire high quality thrillers indefinitely.  But the author hasn't shown any signs of foundering so far, and I am looking forward to his next Purkiss adventure with anticipation.

Five nooses.

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