Short Takes

Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

December 22, 2012 

ÒThe Right HandÓ by Derek Haas.

Fiction

The Right Hand

Derek Haas, Mulholland, 272 pages

A lean, no-nonsense plot starts on a high arc as “The Right Hand” swiftly progresses to its plausible, and quite poignant, finale. Derek Haas brings the same sense of nonstop action, high drama and character studies that he brings to the hit NBC series “Chicago Fire,” for which he is a scriptwriter, and to the 2007 Russell Crowe film “3:10 to Yuma.”

“The Right Hand” is Austin Clay, an undercover agent in the CIA whose missions are so secret that even his bosses don’t acknowledge them. Or him. Austin is sent to find a missing American operative who was captured in the Russian countryside. But the missing agent is only the beginning of a conspiracy that has infiltrated the U.S. government. Austin fights off Russian hit men and tries to protect an innocent young Hungarian woman while trying to find out who is betraying who, and why.

Haas’ cinematic background serves “The Right Hand,” which seems tailor-made for the movies. The vigorous pace never slows as Haas’ sparse prose propels the plot that crisscrosses Europe. Haas introduces just enough spycraft to add intrigue, but never to overwhelm his story. In Austin Clay, Haas has created a credible action hero whose flaws show he still has a conscience, despite the often unsavory situations in which he’s involved. “The Right Hand” should just be the beginning of Austin’s adventures.

Sun Sentinel

The Maverick’s Christmas Homecoming

Teresa Southwick; Harlequin, 224 pages

Mysterious chef Shane Roarke is a celebrity chef, who took a career back step to work at the Thunder Canyon resort. Of course, he had his mysterious reason. That would be daddy dearest. Shane adores his adopted parents, but has an obsessive need to discover the identity of his biological parents. Then he wishes he hadn’t.

Mom’s identity isn’t so bad. However, Dad is the despised former mayor, who is in jail. So, he becomes an emotionally tortured hero – an emotionally tortured hero who is devastatingly handsome and cooks amazing meals. So, it’s understandable when waitress Gianna overlooks his torturedness. Gianna has a few secrets of her own, although they don’t come to matching the secrets harbored by Shane.

Set during the holidays, it’s another story in the series – meaning if you’re a fan, you’ll like it. If not, pass. Of course Shane and Gianna think they shouldn’t engage in a relationship. Then of course they do. Then they both think anything long-term is impossible. Then they discover that it’s impossible not to have something long-term. Readers will encounter several characters from previous books, which is always fun. This is another easy-to-read, mindlessly fun story that will leave you smiling.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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