Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Inside Man

Author Jeff Abbott has now written four stories in his best-selling Sam Capra series. The first three, Adrenaline, The Last Minute, and Downfall related the thrilling adventures of Sam Capra, a mid-20s man who once worked for the CIA until his wife, also a fellow agent, betrayed him. Due to the suspicion that he was in league with his rogue wife, Sam was forced out of the CIA. However, he had been working in Europe as part of a group that infiltrated various networks of drug smugglers, human traffickers, and weapons runners. For the first two novels in the series, Sam was trying to get back his child, who had been taken by some shadowy group that was associated with his wife. For a while he was their puppet, doing as he was told in order to get back his precious son. Then Sam was recruited by a clandestine group known as the Round Table, a very well-funded and well-connected group, who employed a series of agents presumably with noble intentions, stepping in and making a difference for the good of mankind. In the third novel, Sam took up a cause that was dropped in his lap outside one of the bars he managed as part of his involvement with the Round Table.

Now, in the just released fourth installment, Inside Man, a friend from Sam's past that had once saved his life is murdered out in front of one of his bars. Once again, Sam dives into the fray without thinking things through and find himself neck deep in the intrigue of a very wealthy family who owns a legitimate air freight company that serves as a cover for a much more lucrative smuggling operation. The family is one made up of a once strong patriarch who has become frail and suffers from dementia, and his four children, each of which has lived a tumultous life caught between loyalty to their father and living with the reality of his shady past. If Sam is not dodging bullets then he is involved in one physical altercation after another, driven initially by avenging his murdered friend but then seeing his adventure through.

To me, this novel was the first in the series that seemed formulatic and contrived to a level that I found distracting. Sam Capra took the risks that he had in the past in order to save his son, yet after his rescue, Sam seems to be anywhere but with him. He was also hired by the Round Table to be their operative. Yet in the last two novels, though his every move has been against the wishes of his new bosses, they pour huge amounts of money into supporting him. In fact, the more he learns of the secretive group that he works for, the more he learns that they are not the cowboys wearing the white hats. Other than a kind of thrilling romp, this story did not particularly evolve any of the main characters. Predictably the end of the novel paved the way for the next book in the series.