Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Night Ranger by Alex Berenson

It's not often you
read about kidnap victims
you don't care about.

Alex Berenson's The Night Ranger is the seventh in his series of books centered on the character John Wells, an undercover CIA operative. In this installment we find John coaxed out of retirement to investigate the kidnapping of four aid workers in Kenya.

Let me state for the record that I have enjoyed Berenson's other books because Wells is an interesting character. He exhibits many fewer Superman-esque physical characteristics than your typical fictional espionage/military hero and much more mental strength and an "I'll wait you out" kind of attitude.

But for me, The Night Ranger suffered because I couldn't care less about the kidnapping victims none of whom are portrayed in a likable manner. Perhaps that was Berenson's intent. In particular one of the victims is described over and over as the ultimate hot piece of ass - blonde, blue eyes, killer bod - with a willingness to use those attributes as best suits her needs. Except that those attributes are completely irrelevant to the plot. She could've been a troll and it wouldn't have changed a bit. The character who was a bit of a troll didn't benefit from being a troll at all. And the other three kidnap victims - thin, thin, and thinner. I really couldn't work up the emotional engagement to care whether they lived or died.

Another off-putting aspect of the writing is letting the plot play out and then backing up in time to retell the same time period from another character's viewpoint. Each occurrence of this, especially the ones early in the book, were so jarring that it disrupted the entire flow of the book for me.

Finally, the plot crescendos to an ultimate conflict and then an epilogue is used to quickly wrap up loose ends by having various characters saying what they're going to do about this, that and the other thing (some major elements, some minor). I often find myself thinking that these issues of plot wrap-up really need to be explored more fully because they would round out some of the character development. It's like a novelized form of "they all lived happily ever after, the end."

I'm not going to stop reading Berenson's books, but this one won't make my favorites list.

This review refers to the audiobook version. I received no compensation of any kind for this review. 


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