Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review - Death Echo by Elizabeth Lowell

Death Echo CIA agent turned private security consultant, Emma Cross is on a fast paced, seven day mission to track down a stolen yacht Blackbird which may or may not be carrying a deadly cargo destined to destroy a major American city. When things get hot, she has no choice but recruit Blackbird's transit captain, MacKenzie Durand, a former special ops killer into taking the yacht to its ultimate destination. Caught in an inter-agency crossfire, with the Russian mafiya as well as former KGB agents all interested in this particular yacht, Emma and Mac soon find themselves in a battle for their lives.

Death Echo (423p, Avon, Isbn-0061664421) a fast paced, tension-filled adventure that keeps the readers hooked from start to finish. The focus is more on the action and mystery rather than romance and sex (sort of in the tradition of Catherine Coulter's suspense novels) contrary to some other Lowell books I've read and that's a welcome surprise. The romance that eventually crops up between the main characters starts off as a mutual attraction and over the course of the novel gradually develops into something more. It feels very natural and is in sync with the rest of the story, and not just added on to satisfy prurient interests. Both Mac and Emma are strong people with similar backgrounds which makes it believable that they manage to work well together when suddenly thrown into perilous situations, despite having never set eyes on one another before this mission.

Overall, this book is not keeper-shelf material, but it does make for some interesting reading.

These were the things I liked about this book. To explain what I didn't like I have to venture into Spoiler territory, so please don't read any more if you'd rather not know the details.

Spoilers ahead!! Click the "Read more >>" button to reveal some secrets
It soon becomes apparent that this book is part of a series as leads from previous novels are introduced as secondary characters and undue interest is shown in their lives and romance which is just not required for this time-crunched storyline, except to provide a sense of continuity for followers of this series. This is my first book of this series and somehow it didn't make me feel like getting the others and reading them.

There is never a lack of tension or bad guys - in fact, there are so many bad guys and various three letter agencies dancing a constant, complicated dance of one upmanship that it's difficult to follow the various threads or understand the reason for them. Readers have their pick of robbery, murder, terrorism, geographic conflict and so much more. I was baffled right from the start of the novel where Emma gets set on this mission, the background to which I had to read twice and I'm still not sure I understood it all. Also hard to believe is that CIA has all this info and still goes to a private security consulting firm like St.Kilda to get them to investigate when subsequent inter-agency conflict makes it clear that one agency or the other would perhaps have liked to do the dirty job from start to finish. It's conveniently explained as a "passing the buck" kind of situation but I don't buy it. It just doesn't gel. So many other questions popped into my head that weren't answered with the first read. I might have to go back and re-read, but then I probably won't as the book just isn't that super-interesting which it has to be if it has to stay on my keeper shelf for future re-reading.

While this is not a con, I was wondering about the romance between Emma and Mac. Its development felt natural but, while I'd like for this couple to get the requisite "happily ever after" ending after the story ends, it just doesn't seem probable given the too fast "racing against time" feelings they develop for each other in extreme danger-filled situations in the tradition of that hit movie "Speed". Only subsequent books in this series will tell.

Now the biggest con for me about this book is that the author just overwhelms the reader with nautical details. To a certain extent this is okay seeing as how the story deals with yachts and takes place primarily over water. But to a landlubber like me that level of minutiae about what happens on a boat - its equipment, charting, engines etc - which consumes pages, dominates conversations between the lead characters as well as eats up the storyline is a big turn-off. Unlike Emma who was there doing it and so liked it all instantly, I was just sitting at home reading about it and wondering what an "aft springer" is or what a "pod drive" does and how it's important to me as a reader.

The significance of the title also escapes me. Towards the end, a wounded Mac explains "Death Echo" as radar terminology for something that "shouldn't be there" which totally doesn't make sense to me with relation to it being the title of this book. Except in that sense. You know what I mean.

All said, my copy of this book is going as donation to the local library. Is yours?

Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
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