Friday, February 19, 2016

Brief Mention: VANISHING GAMES, Roger Hobbs

In 2013 Roger Hobbs won the prestigious CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for his debut thriller, Ghostman. An acknowledged master of suspense, Hobbs positioned the criminally skilled Jack -- gambling under the name "Jacques Fisher" in an Oregon casino as VANISHING GAMES opens -- within a dark underworld rooted in Macau and Hong Kong. In this second book, Jack's "jugmarker" (the person who plans and directs a serious criminal caper) needs him to come back to the region, this time operating in the South China Sea. It's been years, and Jack and Angela, each a superb performer with appearance shifts and high-tech protection, have changed so much that they might not have known each other if they'd passed in an airport.

Very few people know how to contact Jack. But Angela still can, and does, when a standard heist of gemstones goes seriously awry and her life and operations are under extreme threat.

I had not read Ghostman before this second book, and I enjoyed the swift action and insight (imagined? real??) into a world of international jewel theft. Hobbs doesn't yet paint depth of character successfully, but his maneuvers, twists, and discoveries make for a page-turning read (with a lot of gore), and Jack and Angela's collaboration has long-term possibilities. I prefer more layers in my protagonists, but I'm willing to keep following this series on the assumption that Hobbs will deepen as he keeps writing.

I just wish I knew someone who could verify for me that the global thievery networks do operate the way Hobbs shows them. No, actually, on second thought, I'm relieved that I don't know anyone caught up in so much violence. I'd rather read about it, and hope it's uncommon in real life.

For VANISHING GAMES, thank goodness, we're not going to meet the ghostman, or the jugmarker, living down the street. This is hard-boiled crime writing at its most forceful; don't expect any happy endings or intervals to last!

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