Audiobook Review: Downfall by Jeff Abbott

20 08 2013

Downfall (Sam Capra, Bk. 3) by Jeff Abbott

Read by Kevin T. Collins

Hachette Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 33 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Downfall is another fast and complex thriller in Jeff Abbott’s excellent series featuring ex-CIA spy Sam Capra. If you like fast paced action, with a dude running around like a crazy man, throwing himself in harms way, and finding ways to handle threats from all sides, well, dammit, read this series. It’s a good time.

Grade: B+

Every time I hear the main character in a thriller, adventure, spy novel talk about how he or she wants a "normal" life, I wonder exactly why. Honestly, dudes and dudettes who spend your days chasing down nuclear launch codes or exposing international conspiracies that go all the way to the top, normal lives are kind of Meh. Really. This is why you are in a book, because, despite the fact that everyone you have sex with ends up either betraying you or kidnapped to forced you to commit a crime, at least you are promised hot spy sex at least once a year. I have lived almost 40 years and I am yet to experience hot spy sex…. that I know about. Normal is really, really boring. That’s why the typical day to day life of a white suburban male who works a crappy job tends not to be what author’s write about, unless you’re one of those hoity toity literary types, and really, who wants to read that. Actually, maybe you spy types. Maybe, after a long day driving cars off cliffs, jumping out of supersonic experimental planes, and tossing corrupt CEO’s who are blackmailing the president out the windows of their penthouse apartments, maybe you like to lean, back and relax and read about some dude filling out purchase orders, and trying to figure out how to complete all the work when two people have called out and one is out on FLMA leave. Maybe, after whining and dining a Russian heiress whose father may have ties to international arms brokering, you just can’t wait to find out how some dude is going to handle the woman complaining about her leaking sink, when she never reported it was leaking. Maybe, when you say you want a normal life, you are speaking the absolute truth. I mean, is it really YOUR fault that the woman being hunted by the shady power broker just happened to come into your bar, or the man you just had to forcibly remove from your establishment just happened to be related to the Russian mob? Can you help that trouble finds you, and it’s not the kind of trouble that a normal person has to deal with when some clerk accidentally enters their purchase order twice and they receive double the amount of supplies they were expecting but have very limited space? Probably not.

Sam Capra was just tending bar one day when a beautiful women came in asking for help, followed by two shady characters. Of course, Sam Capra, being the highly trained ex-CIA spy that he was, and his bar being the front for an international organization tracking and containing the works of certain evil conspiracy groups, Sam knew better than get involved, so of course, he gets involved. When the confrontation leaves one man dead, and Sam on the radar both of the cops, and a shadowy man who likes to subtly manipulate people in such a way to bring fortune to himself and those in his network, Sam must find out how much danger he and those he loves are in. Of course, it’s a lot. Downfall is another fast and complex thriller in Jeff Abbott’s excellent series. Sam is finally settled down with his son, and pretty much in a nice normal groove, so of course, the rules say something has to shake things up for him, and shake they do. Downfall puts Sam at odds with just about everyone, allies, enemies, and those who he’s involved with in a personal way. Abbott makes up for the change in focus of the first two novels, where Sam is put into direct confrontation with an international cabal, while searching for his wife and son, by shifting the conflict, making it a bit more unseen. While the threats are there, and direct at times, Downfall works much life an iceberg, where the real danger is hidden under the surface. As always, the action is crisp and thrilling. Abbott’s action choreography differs from most thriller authors.  Typically author’s action descriptions tend to be more focused on the overall picture, creating elaborate set pieces with many moving parts. Instead Abbott takes an almost kinesiological approach, focusing on the precise placement and movement of the body, as Capra fights, flees and does what it takes to bring down the bad guys. Yet, the plot goes the other direction, combining direct threats with a bunch of hidden players mixed in. It was nice to actually have more information than the protagonist, and often see how Capra’s logical deductions were actually wrong, due to his lack of information. Yet, Abbott still managed to pull off some surprises that only Capra may have seen coming. One thing that did annoy me was a few interactions, particularly between Sam, and his kind of sort of  Nanny seemed somewhat unrealistic due to information that those who have read the previous novel had, but the characters seemed to be jumping through hoops not to mention, seemingly to avoid spoilers for those who may read the book out of order. While this is something that I guess you deal with when reading a series, sometimes I wish a character would just yell, "Well, that’s because in the last book, I tried to shoot you then harvest you spleen for my own mad experiments *Note: Spoiler not real* but I guess author’s can’t really do that. *pouty sulk*  While I didn’t enjoy Downfall as much as The Last Minute, it was still a heck of a lot of fun, and the Sam Capra series continues to bring you solid conspiracy plots, and lots of unique, yet still kick ass action. If you like fast paced action, with a dude running around like a crazy man, throwing himself in harms way, and finding ways to handle threats from all sides, well, dammit, read this series. It’s a good time.

Once again Kevin T. Collins handles the narration, and for my money, thank god he does. Here’s the thing. Kevin T. Collins emotes. When his characters are upset, he sounds upset. When there are happy, horny, angry or indignant, he sounds that way. His emotional spin is obvious. If you want someone to just read the words, you probably won’t like Collin’s reading. If you want to experience the characters, and get thrilled, frustrated angry, sad (but, hopefully not horny, unless that’s your thing) Collins is your guy. Collin’s handles the international cast superbly. He does some Russian, some British, some Moldovan, and a few others thrown in for flavor. He reads the action with a precise, deliberate pace perfect for Abbott’s style of writing. Collins has quickly become a favorite of mine, and for my book, he is the voice of Sam Capra, good, bad and ugly.

Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: The Last Minute by Jeff Abbott

26 02 2013

The Last Minute by Jeff Abbott (Sam Capra, Bk. 2)

Read by Kevin T. Collins

Hachette Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: If you were like me and a bit hesitant about The Last Minute, do not walk to your bookstore or digital download site, but run across walls and along roofs to get your hands on this thriller. The Last Minute was a heck of a lot of fun, with some great characters, true emotional resonance and a whole lot of breathtaking action making it one of the best action thrillers I have experienced in a while.

Grade: A-

As some of you may be surprised to know, I live a pretty simple life. I have yet to get involved in some globe spanning bit of international intrigue. I have never been framed for treason, or set up as a fall guy for some international global cabal set on world domination. It may not be the most exciting life, but at least the woman I love hasn’t betrayed me, and those I hold most dear are not in the hands of my greatest enemies. I’d call that a positive development. Yet, I have always been fascinated by just how far characters will go to protect those they love. You see, I don’t have kids of my own, but I have nieces and nephews, and other people who I hold quite dear. Now, I really doubt I could hold out against torture techniques like small pinches and pillow flogging, but if I managed to, I’m sure I’d roll over in a second if some guy with a strange accent threaten to decapitate my nephew’s Rex from Toy Story doll. Yet, I am the first person to scoff at book characters when they risk little things like assassinations and an apocalypse to rescue their children. I mean, I may be willing to reveal nuclear launch codes due to some slight discomfort but should a character on TV reveal where he hid the cable remote because some sociopathic bad guy is holding his children hostage, I’m quick to label the character a wuss. Yet, I am not ashamed. I revel in my hypocrisy, and after all the emotion of the moments are over, I am willing to forgive the characters their moments of weakness, as long as it all turns out peachy for the world in the end. I’m big like that.

After the events of Adrenaline, disgraced spy Sam Capra is now running a group of bars as front companies for a shadowy international organization. Only one thing matters to Sam, finding out were the organization known as Novem Solas has hidden his infant son. Yet, Novem Solas has other plans, and offers Sam the opportunity to get his son back, if he performs one favor, kill an innocent witness with damning information about the organization. I was a bit hesitant to take on The Last Minute, in fact, if it wasn’t for a bit of a technical snafu, it probably would still be lingering unlistened to on my MP3 Player. I liked Adrenaline, but the length of the audiobook (nearly 17 hrs) and the number of other audiobook commitments had placed it on the back shelf. Well, sometimes technical problems are there for a reason. The Last Minute is a grand adventure novel full of fast paced action, lots of intrigue, tons of twists and some unexpected emotional wallops. With thrillers, I tend to enjoy tighter, simpler tales, and was worried that the length would lead to an unfocused narrative full of unnecessary side trips. This worry wasn’t completely unfounded. Abbott doesn’t take the easy road to get to his destination, and there were some strange, somewhat distracting tangents along the way. Yet, there were also a few diversions that pushed The Last Minute beyond just another typical thriller, into something better. Abbott sets up a massive interlocking conspiracy that often pushed the edges of credulity, but in fun, exciting way. He deftly uses the emotional turmoil that Sam Capra is facing to push the story in interesting directions. There is one brutal and brilliant chase scene that ended in one of the most shocking decisions made by a protagonist in a thriller I have read. It was reasonable and utterly irrational at the same time. Yet, what truly stood out for me was one of the novel’s side trips, a tale of human trafficking and revenge that could work as it’s own short story or even novella, but ends up adding so much depth to one of the more elusive characters in the series.  So, if you were like me, and a bit hesitant about The Last Minute, do not walk to your bookstore or digital download site, but run across walls and along roofs to get your hands on this thriller. The Last Minute was a heck of a lot of fun, with some great characters, true emotional resonance and a whole lot of breathtaking action making it one of the best action thrillers I have experienced in a while.

I was all set to tell everyone what a good job Kevin T. Collins did in his narration of The Last Minute. I really enjoy Collin’s voice, it’s youthful, yet full of grit. There is a huge international cast in The Last Minute, and Collins handles this well. He even manages to tough trick of switching from a first person perspective to a third person perspective with ease. So yeah, I was ready to praise Collin’s reading, until I got to the section where Collin’s reads Mila’s origin story. Mila is Sam Capra’s mysterious boss, a Moldovan woman with a shadowy pass. Listening to this left me stunned and speechless. It’s very strange to say, but Kevin T. Collin’s reading from the perspective of a Moldovan woman was one of the best segments I have listened to in an audiobook that’s not narrated by Bronson Pinchot. It was brilliant and gave me chills. I think there was a few times listening to this part of the audiobook that I may have forgotten to breath. Collins had me so enthralled, and Abbott’s story so impactful that it pushed this good novel into the great category. The Last Minute was a real surprise for me, although it probably shouldn’t have been. The 17 hours just flew along thanks to an engaging character, some wonderful scenes and a gifted narrator.





Audiobook Review: Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott

17 08 2011

Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott

Read by Kevin T. Collins

Hachette Audio

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The start of a new thriller series, Abbott has a winning character in Sam Capra. Adrenaline has the feel of Summer blockbuster with its cinematic action scenes and complex conspiracy laced plot.

Grade: B+

I’m really not much of a CIA spy thriller fan. I have listened to and read a few, but I tend to tire of the super spy with his ability to handle everything, take on any persona, and do it with style. I always prefer heroes who get it done, despite the fact that they are human, quite fallible, and their style tends to be more akin to a kick in the crotch. Yet, the plot summary of Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott appealed to me. I like stories about people who are falsely accused, and possibly betrayed. I think the offer a glimpse into the humanity more so then just some man or women doing a job. In Adrenaline, Sam Capra barely escapes a bombing in his CIA London office, when he is warned at the last minute by his pregnant wife. Upon escaping, he is held in a CIA prison, questioned and tortured, and informed that his wife is a traitor, and by proximity, he must be as well. Finally released, to serve as bait for the mysterious bad guys, Capra must find a way to get out from the constant CIA surveillance in order to find his wife and child and prove his wife’s innocence. While he’s at it, he may as well try and take down the badies who kidnapped and framed his wife.

Adrenaline reads like a highly enjoyable summer blockbuster. Jeff Abbot writes with a crisp direct style that has an almost cinematic quality. Sam Capra isn’t your typical super spy, in fact, he is more of a power point intelligence analyst. Yet, he does have some skills, like his fondness for Parkour running, that give the action scenes in Adrenaline an interesting twist. As a character, I quickly grew to like Sam Capra. He was resourceful and quick witted, but not perfect. He made mistakes, yet, quickly acknowledged them, and took steps to fix them. Also, despite his attempts to stay focused, you could feel his emotional intensity as he struggled to keep it together. Now, with all that, this was still a spy thriller, with a complex plot bordering on over the top. Conspiracies and ultra secret groups abound, all happy to use or lose Sam for there own purposes.  Oh, and of course the main bad guy is this charismatic yet shadowy type whose plot within plot has our hero stymied for much of the book. These types of plots can get tiresome, but Abbott manages to pull it off without too many eye rolling moments. I have to say, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Adrenaline. From the opening scenes I was sucked into the world Abbott created. Abbott has a winning character in Sam Capra, who should be able to carry a series for a while with his wit, style and ability to run on walls.

This is the second book this month that I have listened to this month that was narrated by Kevin T. Collins and I am really growing to like his reading style. Collins brings a youthful style to his reading that you don’t get with a lot of veteran narrators, yet adds an edge that many younger, silken voiced narrators lack. Collins is definitely a performer, building up each character with his voice, giving every character, no matter how big or small, there own little twist. Collins also handled the action well, giving a precise, well balanced reading to Abbott’s highly visual scenes. This allows the listener to get a better picture of what is going on. As this was billed as Book 1 in the Sam Capra series, I hope this team of Jeff Abbott and Kevin T. Collins are kept together for the many editions to come.