Title: Green Zone Jack
Author: I. James Bertolina
Date of Publication: July 13, 2018
Publisher: East Third Street Press, LLC
DSS Special Agent Payton Ladd is just about to go on a well-deserved vacation when he’s called back to the field. The nephew of an American senator has gone missing in Baghdad. Payton must go straight to the Green Zone to find him, but it won’t be easy. Nobody tells the truth, everyone seems to be pushing their own agenda, and, most troubling of all, Payton is compelled to work with his ex-girlfriend, RSO Catherine McCabe, to solve the case.
Even though this book is filled with technical military jargon, it somehow manages to be very fast paced. There is a handy list of acronyms at the end of the novel. However, for those of us who don’t have a military background, the language can be hard to follow. I found myself having to put down the book every few minutes to do a Google search.
That said, Bertolina doesn’t actually spend that much time discussing technical aspects. The plot is very fast paced–plunging forward without lingering on the complex terminology. At times, I did want the story to move a little slower–particularly during action scenes. They often ended in less than a full page. I would have appreciated longer and more detailed fight scenes.
Green Zone Jack is very literally written. There isn’t much metaphor, and comparisons are all very direct. For example, Bertolina describes a woman as looking like a runway model in a very matter-of-fact tone. One chapter starts with the sentence “Carl drove back to the embassy.” No flowery language for Bertolina. Bertolina describes the appearances of characters and the setting in basic language, but other than that, there isn’t much meat to the story. No flashbacks to a tortured past. No talks of previous cases and how they’ve shaped Payton into the man he is today.
I hate to say this – but the characters are all quite bland and two dimensional. They could all be easily blended into the same character. There isn’t much to distinguish between then, dialogue and personality-wise. There isn’t anything added to the story to even give us much of an idea of how Payton thinks. I’m used to military thrillers with more colourful characters. A damaged marine who recently lost his wife. A special agent who uses sarcasm to mask his inner turmoil. Payton once had a relationship with RSO Catherine McCabe, which they talk about a lot, but it doesn’t come through in the language Bertolina used. There are no lingering glances. No stinging resentment. Nothing.
I also want to add that I think the book would have benefited from the inclusion of a map at the beginning–something to show the area of Baghdad and where the red and green zones are located. This would have been useful to refer to while reading about Payton’s investigation. Readers could have gotten a better sense of where things are situated relative to one another.
Green Zone Jack is definitely plot-focussed. There are a lot of great twists and turns in the story line–and despite the technical jargon, it’s a very quick read.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a fast-paced mystery set in Baghdad. It isn’t for those who want in-depth character analysis or a flowery read, but it’s a great way to spend an evening curled up by the fire.
*Thank you to Shannon at Ryder Author Resources for the review copy!*
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