Monday, May 10, 2010

John L. Betcher Announces First James Becker Mystery! Review Coming Soon

The Missing Element

After decades of clandestine government operations, James “Beck” Becker and his wife Elizabeth return to “Beck’s” childhood home to enjoy a settled retirement in the small Mississippi river town of Red Wing, Minnesota. But “settled” is a relative term and no matter where Beck goes, intrigue follows.

When Minneapolis computer genius, Katherine Whitson, disappears under peculiar circumstances, her husband exploits a sympathetic Red Wing acquaintance to enlist Beck’s aid in finding her. As it turns out, Katherine’s kidnapping is more complicated than the typical abduction, and the case taxes the Beckers’ considerable skills to their limits.

After dispensing with the “usual” suspects – the unfaithful husband, his same-sex lover, an overly-ambitious co-worker and a cadre of beleaguered managers – Beck homes in on Katherine’s boss at ComDyne Computer Systems as the likely mastermind behind her abduction.

Under cover of darkness, Beck and his word-miserly American Indian cohort, Bull, follow the kidnappers on a visit to their remote “hidey hole” in an abandoned artillery installation. With the aid of law enforcement, the two guys in the white hat and headdress free Katherine from her dungeon imprisonment. But she’s not safe until her boss is behind bars.

Now it will take all of the Beckers’ collective experience – his as a military intelligence specialist and hers as a CIA code-cracker – to bring Katherine's captors to justice, and to neutralize an international cyber-espionage threat that has been at the root of the kidnapping all along.

Katherine herself proves instrumental in orchestrating an FBI raid on her employer’s--ComDyne Systems, Inc.’s--headquarters and in exposing the nefarious potential of ComDyne’s new network hardware.

In the end, Homeland Security halts the release of ComDyne’s spy components. And the would be pooks/kidnappers receive their due.

Some of the book’s more unique characteristics are its Minnesota setting, its likeable main characters and its high-technology-made-understandable. Not to be forgotten is Beck’s American Indian cohort, “Bull,” who presents a stoic, formidable and good-humored persona.

The characters are reminiscent of those in the Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. The book also features a good deal of law enforcement tactics and technology throughout.


The Missing Element delivers high-stakes action in a Midwest setting. The book’s likeable characters, intelligent dialogue and traditional mystery plot line will appeal all readers of commercial mysteries. Along with the mystery comes a good deal of hightechnology-made-understandable, as the main character, James “Beck” Becker delves into the mind-bending world inside computer micro-processors.

Written in the style of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels, The Missing Element's action takes place at various venues in and around the Twin Cities area. So readers who are looking for a Minneapolis, or even a Minnesota, connection will appreciate the book’s authentic local color.

According to computer experts with whom the author has consulted, the book’s cyber-espionage premise is not only plausible, but likely. Reviewers agree.

And finally, readers who are concerned about the Orwellian aspects of the ‘black box’ that computer high-technology has become, will enjoy the philosophical questions Beck raises as he contemplates the reality that ‘man’ is fast becoming the ‘missing element’ in the cyber-equation


The author holds a Bachelor’s Degree, cum laude, in English from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. He has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball there.

Mr. Betcher has published three feature articles in COACHING VOLLEYBALL, the Journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching has been selling nationwide and is currently available at

His mystery novel, The Missing Element, was featured on the Reading Minnesota Blog on April 5, 2010, Reader’s Choice Review on April 25, 2010 and in the Red Wing Republican Eagle newspaper on May 1, 2010. He is also an active member and writing peer coach at the Agent Query Connect writer's forum.

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