Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Latinum Library Review: What Happens In Vegas, Dies In Vegas

5 of 5 Stars A Worthy Successor Indeed

For ten years Kal Hakala WAS the Bureau of Supernatural Investigations' (BSI) top man, the longest surviving agent in its blood-soaked history. Now, he has left the Bureau behind to pursue the vengeance that led him to become an agent in the first place.

Kal assembles a dream team that includes some of the Bureau's best and most lethal field agents, past and present. Each has an agenda of their own but shares one common goal - backing Kal to the hilt in whatever play he makes.

That play begins with the need to require an artifact to power the super Tesla coil required to eliminate the uber-being that killed Kal's sister. Despite their best efforts, the team misses on their first try and must find a new artifact...somewhere.

Somewhere proves to be in the seedy world of Las Vegas' underground fighting circles. What begins as a dicey but do-able mission, quickly heads south of the border when Kal and company stumble upon something far more insidious than some unsanctioned prize fighting.

Now they must wage war across time and space in a desperate attempt to save the very fabric of the universe itself from unravelling. Kal and his team have NEVER, in their darkest nightmares, EVER faced an evil this malignant or this determined. It will take every weapon in their arsenal, every trick in the bag and a whole lot of just plain luck to snatch victory from the jaws of certain doom this time.

Near the end of my review of Mark Stone's debut novel, Things To Do In Denver When You're Un-Dead, I made the point that it left me "salivating for the forthcoming sequel". I am quite pleased to say that all of my salivation was not in vain.

From the very first page, Mark serves up a bountiful buffet of machismo, magic and mayhem that will sate the appetite of even the most discerning literary gourmand. Rich, savory and flavorful, the story will compel you to shovel it in by the forkful leaving you as fat, bloated and happy as only the best-prepared novels can.

Mark leads off with a combat sequence that strikes his readers with all of the subtlety of a sock full of sand. Rest assured that there is a definite method to this initial burst of madness. It reminds us that, in the world of battling Supernaturals, there is no such thing as a "normal" day. It remains every bit as bloody and brutal as we have come to expect. It also serves to introduce us to the thoroughly captivating ensemble cast of characters that comprise Kal's newly-assembled team.

Returning to fight at Kal's side, and often watching his back, is the redoubtable Canton Alsate. The acerbic Mescalero Apache is, perhaps, Kal's best and only acknowledged friend. Though still a "man on the inside" of the Bureau, friendship and a strong sense of what MUST be done, lead Canton to chuck it all and join Kal. In his trademark style the consequences of Canton's decision are a secondary concern to him at best. As Kal's mentor in all things blade-related, Canton provides a very nice blend of lethality, comedy and continuity to the story.

Returning as well, is the enigmatic cyber-spirit Ghost. Not unlike Canton, Ghost still serves the Bureau but he, too, finds his loyalty is divided. Kal's intimate knowledge of Ghost's origins binds them inseparably together. With this book we are introduced to a much more... evolved Ghost. As electronically adept as ever, we are also shown a Ghost capable of love, of fear, and yes...even failure. Ghost's electro-angst lends a whole new dimension to this already likeable character.

New to the story is Diana Pennington aka Winch. A former member of Kal's team, she has left the Bureau for an unsatisfying retirement managing her own gym. As Canton's on again/off again love interest and a card-carrying member of the Kalevi Hakala Fan Club, she signs on with no other enticement necessary. A sniper of phenomenal skill, Winch's cool, detached manner of reaching out to touch her targets with unerring accuracy lends an air of stability and common sense to the team.

Rounding out the roster is Rebecca McTavish aka Mouth. With the mouth of a sailor and the body of a porn actress, she is the Queen of Hand-to-Hand Suffering. The torch she carries for Kal never interferes, for long, with her dedication to tearing Supernaturals, or bad guys of any sort, limb from limb. Her unarmed combat skills and her absolutely steel inner core prove invaluable to the team time and time again.

With players this awesome, the inevitability of a damned good story is unavoidable. Mark pads his odds of that eventuality by flexing his writing skills in a very, very impressive manner. He employs a literary device that many new authors try, but does so with a precision and level of expertise that makes for a much more enjoyable read.

As the story heads onward, the viewpoint shifts from Kal to each of the other human team members on a chapter by chapter basis. The differing "voices" as well as the ability to "see" inside the heads of each of the characters fleshes things out in a way that no single aspect could.

As regards the plot of the book, I fear I shall have to leave you with the synopsis and little else. It is a yarn so intricate, so unique and, at times, so barely conceivable that any serious attempt to explain it would fail. Add to that the plot twists, cast of evil villains and varied locales, both in time and space, and spoilers would be unavoidable. I don't wish to diminish anyone's enjoyment by letting slip what comes to pass. It just wouldn't be fair (or as much fun). I WILL let this zinger out: Kal does finally have his day of reckoning with a certain Class V Supernatural.

Suffice to say, there is more than enough physical/magical combat, intrigue, suspense, and excitement that no reader could possibly feel slighted when all is read and done. It is a cracking good yarn from first to final page, no question.

In summary, with this book, Mark has cemented himself solidly into the position of Master in my self-created niche of Paranormal Suspense Thriller writing. His command of his art grows exponentially with each work of his that I read. Mark informs me that there are already, at least, two more books on the horizon. I have absolutely, unequivocally NO doubts whatsoever that, as gripping as this and his debut novel have been, the best work of Mark Everett Stone is yet to come. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up for a job well and properly done.

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