Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review: Daddy's Little Felons by Rick Bennett

Morgan Rapier is a retired Navy SEAL and an expert at creating computer code who has been surviving in San Francisco but not really living since the death of his wife. In his lonely free time, he comes up with a plan to send a virus to the next hacker who attempts to infiltrate his home computer network. That hack comes just as he receives a call from his old friend, Judge Patrick O’Shea, who pleads with him to come to Salt Lake City to help investigate the murder of a friend of the judge’s wife. This sets off a chain of events that doesn’t end before Morgan has solved the murder of Olive Jenkins, has become internet famous for subduing some redneck thugs on video – twice, has started a minor holy war in the Middle East, has crippled the internet infrastructures of both China and Russia, has helped the FBI track down a serial killer, and has taken a ride on AF1.

Daddy’s Little Felons by Rick Bennett is a thriller which takes its title from a term of endearment bestowed by the Mrs. O’Shea character on the criminal wards of Judge O’Shea’s court. Bennet is clearly computer literate, and the sub-plot concerning the hero’s takedown of the would-be hacker-world (if it can be called a sub-plot since the entirety of the plot is several interwoven subs) is easily the best aspect of the book. In fact, Bennet seems to understand this, as the text is riddled with hyper-links taking the reader to a website established by the author to serve as an encyclopedic set of footnotes explaining the creative concepts the author developed when conceiving the virus plot.
The book also contains several action and/or fight sequences which build in intensity as the story progresses … like a Bruce Willis movie. Early fight and action sequences read realistically, however later sequences are a little over-the-top – making them less Die Hard-like and more Hudson Hawk-ish. The characters are interesting, but a little one-note. The good guy characters and even one of the bad guys all seem to see the world through the same neo-con prism. Meanwhile three “liberal’ characters (all of them female) are shrill, belligerent, and self-destructive in their efforts to “discredit” Rapier.
Personally, I disagree with much of the political bias of the novel, and for some reason the fiction is heavy on the political bias. Nonetheless, I tried to approach it as a neutral reader, and it still came off to me as if the author had taken the actual personalities of Michelle Malkin, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann and simply superimposed them on fictional versions of Christiane Amanpour, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi.
That said, I actually did enjoy the historical aspects of the story which include a detailed description on the Monroe Doctrine and the concept of “letters of marque” as well as some true-to-life history on the foundation of Salt Lake City and the episode of “The Mountain Meadows Massacre” and a real life villain named George Wood. I was also very impressed with the argument Rapier puts forward for deputizing American hackers to bypass international law and take down overseas cyber-terrorists due to the potential they have to disrupt commerce.
Overall, if your fiction tastes run toward Jack Reacher and your non-fiction tastes run toward George Will, you will probably enjoy Daddy’s Little Felons. If, on the other hand, your non-fiction tastes tend to favor Al Franken; you still might enjoy it, but you’ll probably put it down in a huff a few times along the way.
Rick Bennett’s website is The Morgan Doctrine and his book is available in electronic formats through Amazon.
     Alas, Lavar didn’t take my apology in the spirit I’d intended. Instead, he did his smirk toward Lamar, incorrectly assessing my honest apology as cowardice. Then back to me, “Too little. Too late, Morgan.”
     “So I don’t suppose you’ll let me buy you guys a beer and call it even?” I asked.
     “You’d probably get arrested for walking into a bar without your pants on,” smirked Lavar.
     “Ah, quid pro quo,” I said.
     “What’d you call me?” said Lavar, flexing to keep his pump-up going. Lamar looked equally confused and flexed, too.
     “Boys, that means eye for an eye. Pants for pants.”
     “Yes it do,” said Lamar, wanting to keep up his end of the conversation.
     “Too bad you feel that way, Lamar, Lavar,” I sighed. “Let me therefore apologize in advance.”
     “In advance of what,” said Lamar.
     “I truly didn’t want to hurt you guys, but you’re not leaving me much choice.”
     The faintest shadow of concern registered as Lamar’s eyebrows seemed to grow together. He looked about to step back, but Cousin Lavar seemed to miss the implication of my pre-pology. He snickered and said, “We’ve taken down big guys before.”
     “In a bar fight, maybe,” I said. “Fair warning. I’m a US Navy SEAL. Team Three if you know anything about SEALs. I’ve seen a lot of combat, and I could whip ten of you. So, last chance Lamar and Lavar Kendrick.”
     I repeated their last name, for my streaming video record.
     “Don’t forget Cousin Laverl,” said a voice behind me. Obviously, he couldn’t get to me with the car to my back, but perhaps he wanted me to turn so the other two could sucker punch me. My only risk in not assessing the threat might be a baseball bat to the head, but I mitigated against that threat by stepping away from the car and toward the two guys in front of me. Laverl would have to throw his bat, if he had one.
     My forward motion threw off the timing of Lavar’s round house punch, which glanced off my shoulder, instead of my jaw. Lamar also stepped forward, which accelerated his throat into my two right knuckles headed for his larynx. Luckily, I pulled the thrust at the last instant, thereby saving Lamar’s life. But even the pulled punch put him out of the fight, which I knew it would. Lavar had quickly followed his right-hand round house with a left jab to my solar plexus, and it might have hurt me if I didn’t have the reach advantage. A split second after I’d slugged Lamar in the throat, the heel of my left hand slammed into Lavar’s unprotected chin. Combined with his forward momentum, the force snapped his head back and into a garage supporting post. He bounced rather nicely with eyes rolled back before he hit the ground. Now, where was that little scamp, Cousin Laverl?
     I turned to see a wide-eyed statue on the other side of my car. He hadn’t moved since his opening line of the scene. A quick glance behind me at Lamar on his hands and knees and breathing, albeit with difficulty, reassured me that I hadn’t killed the poor devil. Maybe time for an olive branch?
     “Laverl is it?” I said. “You want to take a crack at me, that’s fine. Or you can give me a hand with your cousins to make sure I haven’t hurt them too badly. Your call.”

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