Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jenn's Review: Hard Stop

Summary: Sam Acquillo is getting to be a lot more sociable. People are constantly dropping by, including guys in black outfits with .45 automatics breaking into his cottage in the middle of the night.

Though on doctor's orders to stay clear of violence and mayhem, Sam does what's needed to encourage a candid conversation with the home invader, with surprising results. Suddenly Sam's past reaches out to pull him back into the world of big money and even bigger egos, where the term "corporate intrigue" is redundant and ambition the only virtue. It seems a person important to the private life of a very important person has gone missing in the Hamptons. And it looks like the best way to get her back is to extort Sam's cooperation.

After finally achieving some measure of peace and contentment on the tip of Oak Point, overlooking the Little Peconic Bay, Sam is yet again an accidental player in other people's dramas. It takes him into the world of private security goons, predatory financiers and lifestyles of young hedonists, some brave, some beautiful, all a bit lost. But this time there's some added incentive. An opportunity Sam thought he'd never see again. The chance to get a bit of his old life back. The only piece he might actually want.

With lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski and cop friend Joe Sullivan reluctantly in tow, and the beautiful Amanda Anselma, fisherman Paul Hodges and mutt Eddie Van Halen eager to lend a hand, Sam is back on the quest.

This time with a few ambitions of his own, which lead him into something all his battles in the ring and corporate boardroom could never have prepared him for.

Review: I requested this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's (due out in May), because it came off as witty in the blurb. When I received this book from Library Thing, I was a little dismayed to discover this book was mid-series. I hate starting in the middle of a series. The publisher, however, was nice enough to include a brief overview of the previous books in the series so I didn't feel too lost. So for the most part, I'm reviewing this as a stand alone novel, because that's my frame of reference.

The plot was solid and the reader is kept in the dark until the very end. This helped me press on because there are a lot of characters in his book, and while I'm sure may of them were introduced in previous novels, it was difficult for someone new to his work to keep track of them all. I had to keep going back and looking up the names of the people he was investigating, and those were new characters, for the most part.

I had a hard time engaging with any of the characters. We briefly meet Sam's daughter a few times. Sam's girlfriend, Amanda, swoops in and out. She's supportive yet eerily blasé, flitting in and out with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres oftentimes serving the intruders! There are lawyers who work for free, which I can understand if they're friends, but the legwork Jackie does for Sam makes her seem more like his personal shrive (part administrative assistant, part gumshoe). There are cops that share way too much information and bend way too many rules (yes they're friends, but really!!!). There are ambivalent henchmen and quirky assassins.

I also felt that Knopf's denouement was a little rapid. The case was solved but not fully resolved, and the wrap up is left a little open ended. It sort of felt like a crash landing.

All in all, this should have made for an entertaining read, but by the end, I was underwhelmed. Maybe I went in with the wong expectations, perhaps it's just because it's the middle of the series, but from what I can surmise, Chris Knopf is not as witty as his blurb writer.

Final Take 3.8/5


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