Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mark Sullivan, THIEF: Page-Turning Suspense with Revelations

Mark Sullivan used to be sort of a Vermont author; Dave and I lined up his early books, The Fall Line, Hard News -- and then reading The Purification Ceremony terrified me and almost stopped me from collecting his later titles. Almost ...

Then Sullivan's work with James Patterson began to add up: Private Games, Private Berlin, Private L.A. In hindsight, I wonder whether that kind of teamwork also shaped his plot and character work, pushing him toward choosing his own form of thriller featuring Robin Monarch, a hard-fighting, team-working, killing-when-necessary rogue and outlaw (and those are the first two titles in this series: Rogue, Outlaw.)

Now THIEF has pushed Robin Monarch and his team to new extremes, robbing the rich and supporting the poor in three vastly different terrains: high-money Greenwich, Connecticut, where Robin plans to relieve an unscrupulous bully of some ill-gotten wealth; cold and snowy enemy-hunting in Switzerland; and the hot, humid, parasite-riddled, but exotically gorgeous Amazon Basin, among indigenous peoples who've adapted to their environment effectively, without outside contact.

If you're already reading the Robin Monarch series, you know you can trust author Mark Sullivan to press the pace and keep Robin demonstrating his martial arts and the sniping and scoring skills of his teammates, like rapid researcher Gloria Barnett and battle-ready buddies Claudio and Chanel. What you might not expect, though -- and if you're new to Robin, this will guarantee you multilayered exploration in THIEF -- is backflashes to when this tough attacker was a kid, and Sister Rachel took him in, from a gang life in a Brazilian slum. Really? Can Robin Monarch's "Robin Hood" existence be explained by the backpack of rocks that Sister Rachel strapped to the child who'd already become a killer? You bet.

But you'll have to get the story "one rock at a time," as Robin's perils turn out to have more to do with those long-ago choices than anyone except Sister Rachel herself might guess:
[Monarch:] "Anything on Vargas?"

"He's dead."

"Then his ghost just tried to kill me and Claudio before the police showed up." ...

Why would he try to take them out now, after so many years? He could see the guy carrying a grudge. That was not hard to imagine. But why would he decide now, after more than twenty years, to exact his revenge?

Monarch had no easy answers. As he faded into unconsciousness, his mind sought out the last time he'd seen the man before today.
The expertise of Robin Monarch's team -- including major amounts of tech wizardry -- pushes his exploits to the level of "believable enough" as the plot races forward. The flashbacks make sense, the vulnerability of Sister Rachel and her orphanage and hospital come through clearly, and thanks to the scientific and personal courage of Dr. Estella Santos of Rio de Janeiro, Robin Monarch gets an extra dose of inspiration and stubbornness to carry him along.

Grab this one for the pure rush of escape into adventure and action and suspense -- with professional thief Robin Monarch and his crew of nontraditional allies, Mark Sullivan has found his own swift pace.

We sort of wish he still hung out in Vermont.*

[*Since you asked: Bozeman, Montana. Author's website here.]

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