A James Becker Thriller
By John L. Betcher
Image via Wikipedia Robert B. ParkerIt was just luck that I happened to read The Missing Element first, because it quickly pulled me in as a fan of this series. One of the reasons why I wanted to read the book is that he advertised it as somewhat like the writing of Robert B. Parker, who was one of my favorite authors
And I was pleased to see similar dialogue and a wonderful threesome fighting crime as was displayed in the Spenser series...John L. Betcher had my attention!
But it was The 19th Element that won John L. Betcher his own place on my list of favorite authors. This novel firmly sets the character, Beck, in a solid role of hero in my book! Not willing to give away anything, I can only say that the climactic plane scene is really amazing!
James L. Becker is an attorney-at-law who went back to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota, to begin his retirement after 20+ years of hush-hush military intelligence operations. His wife, Elizabeth, also has quite a background, but she's a minor character in The 19th Element and I did mention to the author that I missed their lively, fun dialogue this time! To which I got an "Understood." (Well, if you don't ask...LOL)
Beck could keep busy with his law practice, but whenever something happens in or around Red Wing, he tends to look at it from all angles...and if it doesn't "feel" right to him, he'll start to asking questions. So of course when a dead body is found on the Mississippi River shoreline north of his town, he immediately wanted to know more--who was he, first of all.
Gunner (Doug Gunderson) is Ottawa County's Chief Deputy Sheriff. Normally, he wouldn't be interested in having a "civilian" involved in his business, but he has already discovered that Beck always seems to make sense and usually is of help, even if he's somewhat pushy about knowing everything! Actually, they are old school friends and Gunner is one of the few individuals who was persistent enough to be told a little of Beck's background. Besides, while Gunner operates strictly by the book, he knows that Beck...has his own rules. I love the dialogue between the two men...
After the usual press by Beck to be told all, he learned that the dead man had been a professor of Agriculture at the university. He had been stabbed. And his lab assistant, Farris Ahmed, was also missing. Beck was already profiling and wanting to know the international activities, etc. Of course, Gunner's response was strictly stated: "No racial profiling..."
But Beck was already thinking! Was there any ties to Al Qaeda? What was in the area that might be of interest to terrorists? And to be more specific--what had the professor been working on in his lab? Was there anything missing?
When you ask the right questions as Beck did, you start getting a handle on the possibilities! The professor had been involved with studying the use of potassium and had invented a "potassium electrolysis separator." With the device, it was possible to extract pure potassium from potassium chloride, transforming it from a solid to a gas, which would then convert to solid potassium metal... What readers will learn is that it can be a very dangerous explosive!
And the potential interest in the area? Oh, that would be the...nuclear plant, specifically, the Minnesota's Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant--See front cover!
The thrilling suspense comes in as Beck uses one clue after another to arrive at what the plans will be. His knowledge and experience, plus his inborn wisdom allows an empathy that reflects not only the overall plan but the details that must be considered and countered.
Especially, when nobody supports his announced theory of a major threat and only his friend Bull will work with him... that is, until it is almost too late!
Wow! I loved it! John L. Betcher has written a thriller that will keep you turning pages and reading until you finish, especially once you arrive on the scheduled day! The choice of potassium as the explosive is very risky; events leading to its use, in themselves, are dangerous. The characters created to support the incident lead to the terror in many ways...only in America...right? Don't know what I mean, well, you're just going to have to read the book! You won't be sorry...
G. A. Bixler
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