Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: “Adrenaline’ by Jeff Abbott


“If you knew this was our final day together, what would you say to me?”
“Anything but good-bye. I can’t ever say good-bye to you.”


I had previously read Jeff Abbott’s novels, Black Jack Point, Cut And Run, Kiss Gone Bad and Panic, and remember them as well crafted, engaging, with shrewd plots and great characters . I had also read about his awards for Do Unto Others, which won both the Agatha Award and the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. So when I had the opportunity to read Adrenaline I jumped at it. The blurb made it sound fun, the plot was intriguing, and the protagonist sounded like my kind of guy.

Sam Capra is an interesting guy, he is a C.I.A. Analyst, newly married, expecting his first child and stationed in London. He is also a ‘Parkour practitioner’. Parkour (PK) is a method of movement, first developed in France, that teaches participants how to move around obstacles with speed and efficiency employing vaults, rolls, running, climbing and jumping. Free running is a term that is sometimes used in English speaking countries to describe the discipline; urban acrobatics where people seem to run up walls are somewhat representative. The book opens up with Capra going on a run through London that is hypnotic in description and draws the reader instantly into the story.

After this opening sequence, Sam goes to work that day and the novel quickly moves into the gist of the story. As Sam is about to deliver an intelligence report that he has been putting together on criminal gangs moving dangerous merchandise across Europe and maybe into America. There is also evidence that these gangs are infiltrating  governments. Then Sam’s  cell phone rings. Not strict protocol in meetings, but his wife is expecting at any moment and he is forgiven. It is his wife, Lucy and she tells him she must see him. Now. he must leave the building now. So he does. And as he searches for Lucy on the street, he catches sight of her seemingly being held against her will. She’s in a Audi driven by a man with a question mark scar near his eye. Then Sam’s  building blows up, along with all his colleagues.

Jeff Abbott “Adrenaline’

Sam uses his skills at parkour to try and catch the man holding his wife, climbing walls, leaping to fire escapes, vaulting over obstacles only to watch him get away.

The scene shifts and Sam is now held by his bosses and is suspected of being a traitor, since he was the only one to survive. His captors explain that either he is a traitor in league with his wife, or he is a fool because his wife was the traitor and he, an intelligence officer, didn’t suspect.

This is a very intense part of the book as his bosses/captors employ psychological torture, sensory depravation, and finally waterboarding to try and get the truth. all the while you can feel Sam’s as he questions his wife’s fidelity, his child’s fate and tries to convince his bosses that he is telling the truth.

Finally, after months, they tell Sam that they believe him to be innocent, and that he was but a dupe by being fooled by Lucy. They set him up as a bartender in a “company owned” bar, obviously as bait for Lucy and her terrorist accomplices.

From this point, the story starts to, if not come apart then strain the seams. After some false starts, Sam escapes, determined to find his wife and by now born, child. He is aided by a woman that used to hang out in his bar, and is apparently well connected with a nameless intelligence agency that has info that only the CIA should have. This agency also has hired out to an employer who himself has suffered the kidnapping of a loved one, his daughter. He will provide the resources for Sam to find his daughter and at the same time Sam can search for Lucy. The scene quickly changes to Amsterdam, where we encounter human traffickers, terrorists, smugglers and yet more bars. The plot moves from scene to scene with such aimlessness throwing in unconnected, and unnecessary plot elements that it clouds the story and doesn’t at all provide those dead ends and side plots that are the thrillers favorite element.

Adrenaline Book Trailer

The story is perhaps a bit ambitious in it’s detail, and since this is meant to be the first in a series, perhaps the author over reached in trying to fit too much detail, too many conspirators involved in too many nefarious practices into one book. At times the dialog is forced, the narration is cavalier, as if the hero is showing off for the reader – there are even a couple of ‘asides’ that come off as arrogance and not story telling. The plot also starts to develop holes that are never filled and even though it is linear in nature, you find yourself wondering if you slept through part of the trip.

The story at times stretches credibility in it’s technology and weapons and even bad guys but it can be forgiven that fault since it is in a way, a technological ‘new age’ thriller.

One glaring fault is Abbott seems to have forgotten Chekhov's gun. Chekhov's gun, simply stated is “if you introduce a gun in act one, it must go off by act three”. Yet, Capra’s parkour skills are not used in any obvious way after the opening act. Yet, this detail was what drew the reader into the character and into the story in the first place.

As it stands, Adrenaline is an “okay read”, a read and forget weekend escape. But Sam Capra, with a little more development, and a little more focus is enough of an intriguing character that as a series it should work.This is not my favorite read in a thriller this year, but because of certain aspects which were beautifully conceived and crafted, and because of the main character, I’d definitely look for book two and see if the writing comes together and fulfills it’s promise.


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Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as Book Review: Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott on Blogcritics.

1 comment:

  1. but he does use his parkour skills several times throughout the novel :P like when he escapes from Nic's house.