Arts and Crafts

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Arts and CraftsWritten by JT Prescott — If you’ve ever wondered where CIA black ops personnel go when they get too old to kill an opponent in one deadly blow, then this entertaining novel may provide some answers. Ken Frazier was a ruthless and accomplished agent but like Tennyson’s Ulysses his strength has largely deserted him. A widower, he is looked after by his daughter, but when he almost burns down his house by forgetting a pot cooking on the stove, she persuades him to move into sheltered accommodation – the Spring Village Retirement Community.

Ken’s reluctance is tempered by the fact that he knows that two former colleagues are also residents of Spring Village. He always fooled his late wife and close family into thinking that he worked in imports and exports, but Craig Charles and Bill Davenport were fellow spooks. Charles was a top lawyer, and what Davenport doesn’t know about the murky world of hedge fund management isn’t worth knowing.

The autumn of Ken’s life in Spring Village is jolted when he is contacted by George Larsen, a former CIA colleague. George is just a desk jockey, and the tale he tells Ken doesn’t make much sense. He says that a dear friend of his, Carla Robbins, a hospitality manager, accidentally eavesdropped on VIP guests who were discussing a terrifying conspiracy. Not knowing who else to turn to, she confided in George. And now she is dead. Ken calms George, and puts the story to the back of his mind.

However, when the TV news tells him that George Larsen has also been killed Ken senses that there is something rotten in the state of Maryland. He realises that he and his old buddies are in no physical state to do anything about it so he recruits a young man and family friend, Sam Flagg, to the cause. With money provided by Davenport, legal immunity supplied by Charles, and weapons training provided by Frazier, Flagg is thrown into the ring against a determined and well connected organisation.

The book certainly gathers pace towards the end, and the final 10 chapters spark with electricity. Ken Frazier is a wonderful character – Jack Reacher in cardigan and slippers – but the metamorphosis of Sam Flagg from mild-mannered engineer into a stony eyed killer strains credulity. The reason why the conspirators are about to unleash urban hell on innocent citizens is withheld for rather too long, and your heart may well sink when the a clichéd former Nazi called Fritz, of all things, begins conversing in a dire phonetic German accent.

Reservations aside, there is much to admire in this book. As an outsider, one always suspects that there is something slightly mad and bad going on under the polished veneer of American politics, and this tale did nothing to dispel that impression. The basic concept of the book is very cleverly thought out, and while the reluctant hero that is Sam Flagg grows into his role, we just cross our fingers that the the three old men at the centre of the counter-plot do not succumb to their various infirmities before the conspiracy is defeated.

Two Harbors Press

CFL Rating: 3 Stars

Purchase on US Amazon here.

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