Mark Terry

Monday, February 19, 2007

CHOKEPOINT by Jay MacLarty--a review


February 19, 2007


ChokePoint

by Jay MacLarty

Pocket Books

Paperback. $7.99

ISBN: 1-4165-0348-X

In this fourth novel featuring international courier Simon Leonidovich (pronounced Leon-o-vich), casino owner Big Jake Rynerson is building a huge resort casino in Macau (China) called The Pacific Pearl. The build isn't going well--a series of unsettling accidents has slowed the project, and there is an immutable deadline set by a Feng Shui expert. There is also significantly more going on--Rynerson, on behalf of the President of the United States, is helping to broker an international trade agreement called the Pacific Rim Alliance, between China, Taiwan, and the United States.

Rynerson takes a phone call from Mei-li Chiang, a Chinese power broker and perhaps gangster, who claims to have a solution to his problems. Rynerson's pretty sure the woman just wants to shake him down in exchange for ending the "accidents." Normally this is something he would never agree to, but with an Asian-U.S. alliance at stake, he agrees to meet the woman. And is shot and ends up in a coma.

Shortly afterward, Simon Leonidovich is called by Jake's daughter, the lovely and beautiful Kyra Rynerson. Simon and Kyra have an interesting history (from BAGMAN) and their relationship is both heated and humorous. Simon is asked to do two things by Kyra's mother, Billie. While Jake is in the hospital battling for his life, Simon and Kyra are to oversee the completion of the resort-casino. And Simon is also hired to deliver the priceless Crest of Ch'in from the Smithsonian to the Chinese government as a goodwill gesture for the Pacific Rim Alliance.

Eventually, through a series of mishaps and adventures, Kyra, Simon and James Atherton, a consultant in all things Asian, find themselves stranded on a deserted island in the China Sea, being hunted by a band of mercenaries working for the mysterious "Trader," who wants the alliance to fall apart and also wants to take possession of the Crest. The bulk of the novel takes place on the island, a game of cat-and-mouse in which the mouse or mice--predominantly Simon and Kyra--seem to have an IQ point or two advantage over their better armed adversaries, who have a number of conflicting agendas, although killing Simon and Kyra is at the top of their lists.

CHOKEPOINT is a lot of fun. It doesn't quite have the focus of the three previous Simon Leonidovich novels (THE COURIER, BAGMAN, and LIVE WIRE), but if anything it's more amusing than the first three. Simon is a wonderful hero--not terribly physical, but very, very clever, and his intelligence and magician's sense of misdirection are what makes him so engaging. As in the three previous novels, MacLarty has a surprise awaiting the readers in the end, but it's the ride with Simon and Kyra that make the trip worthwhile. Very enjoyable.

Best,

Mark Terry

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