Monday, 10 March 2014

HARRY HUNSICKER - THE CONTRACTORS


Synopsis/blurb……

Private military contractors. They're not just for foreign wars anymore. Jon Cantrell, a disgraced ex-cop, works for one such company. He's a DEA agent paid on a commission basis, patrolling one of the busiest drug-hubs in the country: Dallas, Texas. 
When Cantrell and his partner and sometimes lover confiscate the wrong shipment of drugs, they find themselves in possession of a star witness in an upcoming cartel trial that could destroy the largest criminal organization in the hemisphere. 
To turn a profit, all they have to do is safely deliver the witness to the US Attorney on the other side of the state. An easy trip, except the witness doesn’t want to go and a group of competing DEA contractors and a corrupt Dallas police officer want everybody involved dead. 
This heart-stopping thriller takes readers deep into a strange underworld where the lines between government officials and mercenaries blur. In this complex network of drug traffickers, cartels, politicians, and police, no one's hands are clean.

Another new author and another Net Galley book which on the face of it……..drugs, corruption, dirty cops, Mexican cartels and hit squads…..ought to have been up my street. Whilst it was enjoyable up to a point I wasn't engaged in the outcome and felt somewhat indifferent as to how things played out.

The author provides a decent back story for our main character and puts flesh on his bones ….. a troubled job history, family difficulties with an unstable half-sister looking after his father who is suffering from dementia, on/off romance with an equally troubled partner, Piper……but I just didn't feel any connection or empathy towards Cantrell and less for Piper, the other main figure on the side of the good guys.

Cantrell and Piper take down a drug shipment. Cantrell and Piper find themselves in possession of a witness in an up and coming trial against a top figure in one the Mexican drug cartels. Cantrell and Piper endeavour to deliver her to a US attorney somewhere else in Texas and in return secure themselves a big pay-day. A road-trip ensues, with numerous encounters and a fair bit of blood-letting as a variety of miscreants on both sides of the law try to stop the pair and silence the witness permanently.  

Gun fights, death, betrayal, secrets, corruption, drug-addiction, tech-wizardry, family, Texas, Mexican hit squads, indifference, constant mind-wandering, page-counting, loss of reading momentum, ennui, swimming through treacle…… the end, joy, relief, a burden lifted.

I’m possibly being a little bit unfair to the author as the plot was ok, the characters were more than caricatures and the setting was well-described……..I just wasn't swept along – when I read a 500 page book, I want it to be epic and in my opinion this fell some way short. Maybe 200 pages less and it would have been more.
Better than a 2 – as I didn't contemplate stabbing myself in the eyeballs with a pen at any point, but only marginally. In the spirit of generosity a 3 then.

3 from 5

Hunsicker has previously written 3 other books in a series with a protagonist named Lee Henry Oswald set in Dallas! The first of these – Still River was nominated for a Shamus Award back in 2005. Whilst this one wasn't to my taste, I think I would be prepared to give this first book a read.  


My copy was accessed via Net Galley website. The Contractors was published in February, 2014. 

10 comments:

  1. Col - Good to hear that this wasn't a complete disappointment to you. Still, I know exactly what you mean about feeling a bit indifferent about the outcome. And to be perfectly honest it doesn't sound like my cuppa. But it's always good to learn about new-to-me-authors.

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    1. Margot - not the worst book I've read in the past couple of months - just not the greatest either. I suppose my disappointment was exacerbated by its length. The lower my enjoyment, the slower I read, which decreases my pleasure, which locks me in a downward spiral. I don't like giving up on books though, as I'm always optimistic that a story can pick up and captivate me.

      I would still try his other book as he can definitely write, just this wasn't the right book for me though.

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  2. I think you're convincing us to wait till he writes a better book to try him....

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    1. I'd struggle to recommend this one to be honest. Maybe it's more of a holiday read where you can plonk yourself down undisturbed for a few hours at a time and eat it up in larger chunks than I was able to digest. It kind of seemed endless at times......a third of the month gone and only 1 book read, not HP!

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  3. Very good review, Col. I am glad you mentioned the bit about if it is that long, it had better be good. If you give the series he writes a try, I will see what you think of that. I have never tried that because the name seems a gimmick. But it may be a great series.

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    1. There's a lot of other books ahead of trying a second from this author, but I won't rule it out just yet.

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  4. I had to smile while I read your review. Message received. Three is generous.

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    1. Generous is my middle name! Next......

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  5. Thanks for this review, Col. In response to your reply to Ms Kinberg's comment, I feel the same way about books. To borrow from Churchill, "Never give up!" I always find some redeeming feature or other in every book no matter how slow or boring it is. I read till the end.

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    1. Prashant, I also have a bit of cussed-ness about me, thinking that if I give up the author has beaten me, which is kind of irrational.
      I do think sometimes that I'm maybe not clever enough to "get" the author's intention which is why I perhaps don't like books where the ending can be ambiguous.

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