Title: Soft Targets
Author: John Gilstrap
Publisher: Kensigton Books
Read: September 21 - 22, 2013
"Rocket-paced suspense."--Jeffery DeaverFour children's lives hang in the balance. A vicious criminal is on the loose. With law enforcement at a dead end, there's only one man who can recover the hostages--Jonathan Grave.
FBI Special Agent Irene Rivers is horrified to learn that because of mistakes made by agents under her command, a murderer and child molester will walk free. When Irene's own daughters become the monster's next targets, she reaches out in desperation to an elite Special Forces operator. His name is Jonathan Grave. For Grave, results matter more than procedures. Together, they discover a new kind of justice--and a new breed of evil. . .
I have fond memories of reading my first John Gilstrap novel At All Costs whilst on a holiday in Augusta with friends many years ago – which made me extremely bad company as I was holed up in my room compulsively reading until I had finished, emerging stunned and bleary eyed for short moments only to get food and water.
Unfortunately Soft Targets did not have the same effect on me. Had I realised that the story was a novella rather than a full-length novel I might have hesitated before starting to read it. I have found in the past that novellas rarely manage to pack in a wholesome and fulfilling crime story, with character development or plot suffering from the need to wrap things up in a hundred pages or so. Soft Targets was no exception. Whilst the general story outline held promise, fitting a complex plot into a novella came at the expense of character development. Irene Rivers’ two children are kidnapped, and the first person she contacts is a Catholic priest – really? Strangely, Irene does not seem overly perturbed that her children could be in the hands of a child molester, seeming more worried about her job as FBI Agent, careful not to overstep any boundaries. Actually, she manages to live through the whole ordeal with minimum emotional involvement, which made her a rather uninteresting, shallow character for me. Jonathan Grave and his mate Boxers held a more promise, which however was thwarted by trying to fit a complex plot (plus a rather substantial red herring) into a mere 127 pages.
All in all, the story did not live up to its full potential and left me unfulfilled and rather disappointed in an author who I know can do better.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Please note that the final published copy may vary from the one I reviewed.