Friday, February 13, 2009

ENDGAME by James Elliott

A couple fishing buddies—both former Delta Force operators—are camped by a remote lake in the Canadian wilderness. They are old friends, but their lives have drifted apart and this trip is the first in six years. It’s been two great weeks of fishing, hiking, leisure and lot of catching up. As the sun begins to set on the final evening of their trip they spot the flicker and glare of a Lear jet approaching hard and steep. Its engines are silent and it appears to be making an attempt to land on the small mountain lake. It hits the lake’s surface fast and bounces back into the air and then hits hard several hundred yards into the forest.

The pair of former operators swiftly move to the crash site and find the crew dead along with a very unexpected cargo—three large black nylon bags stuffed with $20,000,000. The two men—Eddie Barnes and Ben Stafford—make an easy decision. They decide to keep the money and split it even. Unfortunately the money belongs to some pretty unsavory characters who will go to any length to retrieve their property and it doesn’t take them long to discover who took the money and execute a plan to get it back.

Endgame is one of the better straight thrillers I’ve read in the past few years. The plot is exciting and it is loaded with tradecraft and technical spy and tracking stuff without being burdensome. The action is nicely paced—it doesn’t have the low and slow spots that inhabit many thrillers—and the prose is swift and very much in the style made popular by Tom Clancy in the 1980s; although a little more solid and just a shade more literate.

The characters are exactly as are expected from this type of novel: tough, lightly developed with just enough backstory—most of it military experiences—to raise the characters from straight cardboard to interesting and likable. The novels major flaw is its climax—it diffused the storyline into a strange oblique web that was not quite satisfactory. But the journey was one hell of a ride, enough so that I could forgive the ending and wish that Mr. Elliott were still producing novels.

The British publisher Piatkus originally published Endgame in 2000; as far as I know it was never published in the United States. It was written by J.C. Pollock as by James Elliott. I’ve written several posts about the Pollock-Elliott connection:

J.C. Pollock Update
J.C. Pollock Update 2

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