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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Good Book That CAN Be Judged by Its Cover--Set in Uganda

The Harvest KillingsThe Harvest Killings by A.K. Goode
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An engrossing mystery thriller set in Uganda, which is why I entered the Goodreads first reads giveaway for a review copy. One of the appreciations expressed by the author is to the artist who designed the cover and I have to agree that this is one of the best covers I've seen and it would have captured my interest online or on the table or shelves of the bookstore. It is as open and stark as the descriptions of the coffee fields around the mysterious mountain surrounded by chain link fence and armed guards.

What an assembly of international intelligence agencies, private security companies, innocent bystanders, Chicago mobsters, and corrupt politicians and police populate this story! The question is, why are people getting killed, starting with the deaths of families of coffee growers, killed by an over strong pesticide, around this mountain? Why is the site where, supposedly, a simple water treatment plant is soon to be put on line, guarded by armed former military security guards? Why has a CIA agent been killed but the CIA has not come to investigate his death nor arranged to retrieve his body? Why is the property of an old coffee grower, who is supposed to have been killed in self-defense by one of the guards, got to be sold to an unknown buyer within 48 hours? These questions and more are investigated by American Intelligence Agent Dan Becker and his partner, Piper Lee.

There is much convolution and strands to this fast moving story. Lots of computer stuff I didn't totally understand but loved the young geeks, Harold and Jane et al who raced to decode an encrypted memory disc, hoping the mystery of what is hidden in the mountain could be solved before more deaths occur. And they will, since various and sundry characters either order someone be taken care of or eliminated. The attempts to carry out these orders are not always successfully carried out but they are exciting. Once an old Russian encrypter who was a double agent before he moved to London and gave his all to M16 entered the plot and the name of Yellowtail, as an old covert ops, entered the picture I knew what was in the mountain. That, however, still didn't answer how it got there, who all was trying to retrieve it and what they were going to do with it.

A few things in the writing seemed unnecessary to the plot--who cares that the US Ambassador liked to beat up women and that one woman died? It definitely pegged him as a scumbag but the reader already knew that--there was much else he did for which he wasn't prosecuted because he had diplomatic immunity--so this lame effort to throw sex into the mixture was irritating. Also, not knowing what to do with Henry after awhile so throwing him into the hospital with a shot up leg halfway through the book was distracting. He wasn't even given a great deal of protection and considering the escalating body count it seemed a weak handling of what had been a predominant character. Also couldn't see the point of the whole gambling debt and confrontation with the guy to whom he owed money. Lastly, what's with the male names beginning with " H ". After awhile I found I had to go back to remember how Hank and Harold fit together--Henry I kept pretty straight.
Nevertheless, even with these plot points, the book was a fast and exciting read and right up to the last page kept coming up with twists that were totally unexpected.

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