The Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe
Quercus (February 2017)
400 pages; $17.79 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Far too many times, a thriller fails to live up to its name. Formulaic, tired tropes, ripoffs of the same old “high concept” plots which circulate through the shelves as readers’ minds numb to the repetition. Thankfully, a few push beyond the herd with something new now and then. Newcomer K.J. Howe has definitely brought something special to the table.
Heroine Thea Paris works as a Kidnap and Rescue specialist for Quantum Security International, a “Freedom Broker.” Kidnapping of Americans is a billion dollar industry in today’s world as tourists routinely go missing from resorts and overseas business trips. Many never return. Thankfully, those who can afford the freedom brokers or those whose governments care enough to save them might be saved from a grisly death.
The only female K&R specialist finds that her father, Christos Paris, has disappeared from his boat off the coast of Santorini in a vicious kidnapping. Thea and her team know they have a small window to retrieve him before pieces of him are sent back as motivation to pay up. However, there are a few mind-boggling twists to this case, ones which help raise this tale above anything that’s typical.
Howe infuses the story with characters which bleed personality onto the pages, eschewing the tried and true for the most part. When Thea was a child, she witnessed her brother Nikos taken by a warlord. Years later, she still suffers from the ordeal, with some interesting flaws which keep her above the typical. But it’s her brother who winds up stealing the prize as the most fascinating character, but details would ruin the surprise.
Howe might be a first time novelist, but the razor sharp writing is without an ounce of fat. With loads of technical explanations of weaponry and procedures, this story could easily have been downed in detail, but it only pushes the action forward. This will wind up becoming a contender for best thriller of the year. Easily.