Better than James Bond! A complex, multilayered action thriller with non-stop action, intrigue, and menace. Our hero is Desmond Aloysius Limerick (“my friends call me Dez”), who looks nothing like James Bond.
Dez is five-eight but built like a tank, with a barrel chest, thick arms, short, bowed legs, and oversized hands riddled with scarred knuckles. His scars, burns, and bullet wounds paint a road map of the world’s hot spots.
His past and training is shrouded in mystery, but he obviously was a seasoned veteran of black ops and clandestine ventures. On the inside of his right forearm is a tattoo of Janus, the two-faced Roman god of doors, gates and transitions, and the patron for duality—life/ death, war / peace, beginning / ending—holding the metaphorical key to doors or gateways between what was and what is to come.
Dez was an expert at opening doors that others couldn’t and keeping them open and closing them when needed, and controlling who goes through and for as long as needed. A small part of his skill set involved hacking into security and information systems, as well as physically picking locks. His crew gave him the nom de plume of “The Gatekeeper,” at other times he was referred to as “Chef.” He hilariously thinks he has mastered an American accent, but no one can hear anything but a mongrel type of accent, affected by his upbringing in Liverpool, Ireland, and Scotland. Much like Nelson Demille’s John Corey character, Dez cannot help but pepper his conversation with quips and wisecracks—somewhat shrouding his true guile and mental acuity, He can quote writers and philosophers, yet is an expert at throwing and taking punches.
Dez is attempting a retirement and finds himself in Los Angeles, working a gig as a bass guitarist in a club in the posh Hotel Tremaine. After a three-hour set, he finds himself sipping a beer in his room and looking out the window. He spots the glint of a scope from a sniper on the roof of the next building, aimed at the entrance of the hotel; as a van pulls up, the doors open, and four men pour out. All in black and obviously armed. Dez proceeds to intervene in foiling a kidnapping attempt of Petra Alexandris, the gorgeous, and brilliant chief legal counsel for Triton Expeditors, a multi-billion-dollar military contractor.
They don’t make war, they just market it across the world. Petra is the daughter of founder and owner, Constantine Alexandris. Petra is no stranger to kidnapping; first kidnapped at age twelve and then again the week she turned twenty-one. The action sequence pitting Dez with four thugs is a thing of beauty, comparable to a ballet of violence. Dez breaks the glass and grabs an axe he comes upon on the hotel hallway wall, and uses this incidental weapon along with his guile and skill to thwart the kidnapping attempt. Petra takes him into her confidence and enlists his aid. “I don’t know who to trust … I need some doors opened.” More than a billion dollars has been surreptitiously diverted from her companies’ coffers. Dez starts investigating a possible linkage of the kidnapping attempt with the missing money. With the aid of LAPD detective Beth Swanson he follows leads, all pointing to a military-type plot stemming from a small town in north central California. White supremacist and militias from across the country are converging there, seemingly agitated by an incendiary media companies’ broadcasts. Who is behind this cabal of conspiracy? Is their goal truly to establish a break-away state independent from the USA? (I.e. State of Jefferson or State of Lexington … for nefarious purposes.)
James Byrne weaves a complex and twisted tale of intrigue, menace, and mounting tension that escalates into a taut and unpredictable roller coaster denouement. His pacing and character building are impeccable as the characters jump off the page. It was refreshing to see multiple characters representing women and non-whites in powerful positions. I personally alternated between the kindle and the audiobook version narrated by actor John Keating. The wonderful narration brings to life the full charm and wit of Dez, along with his empathy and sense of justice. This intriguing tale will appeal to aficionados of Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher,” Gregg Hurwitz’ “Orphan X,” and Nelson DeMille’s “John Corey.”