Since the review presented below was posted, a different version has appeared in the January-February 2010 number of the Fort Myers Magazine. See Ft.Myers magazine – Karna Small Bodman
In her latest literary outing, Karna Small Bodman has taken a detour around the central characters of her first two political thrillers (Checkmate and Gambit) and given us compelling new personalities to follow in this captivating portrayal of all-too-plausible threats to our national security. When gas pipelines start exploding, Samantha Reid swings into action. As White House Deputy Director for Homeland Security, she senses the magnitude of the danger, but her opaque and self-absorbed superior is not ready to act. Indeed, no one seems ready to act. In Final Finesse, getting the bureaucracy to recognize and respond to a crisis is like wading in molasses.
Samantha finds an ally in Tripp Adams, vice president of GeoGlobal Oil & Gas, the company that owns the pipelines. She quickly figures out the technical side of what the saboteurs are up to and enlists Tripp in her investigation. Clearly enough, the explosions – as they mount – promote chaos in the fuel markets, sending prices out of sight. Communities and even large regions of the country are threatened by a severe, ongoing energy crisis that cripples all aspects of economic life. Hospitals can’t function, heat is unavailable, people are suffering, and the country is ripe for panic. Among the possible beneficiaries are enemies of the United States, especially those with a significant stake in the world energy market. We are led to suspect the leader of a certain South American country who makes a policy of nationalizing enterprises that foreign investors like GeoGlobal spend fortunes to establish.
Tripp is assigned to go to Caracas and negotiate with “El Presidente” and his government. As he prepares for his trip, and as his professional dealings with Samantha turn personal, a white-hot romance develops.
In Final Finesse, Bodman employs the sure-fire narrative technique of alternating perspectives. While Samantha is the controlling intelligence in one group of chapters, another group of chapters is focused on the gas field workers who have been hired and trained to sabotage the pipelines. Yet another group reveals the deliberations of El Presidente and his clever but conceited aide known “The Fixer.” The author brings one part of her story line to a suspenseful moment and then postpones pushing it forward by switching over to another part of her story line for a while, once again planting new and suspenseful questions. By orchestrating her narrative in this way, Bodman tightens her hold on her readers’ attention, revealing and withholding information with great dexterity.
The stakes are raised when Tripp is kidnapped and held for ransom in Venezuela. A frustrated and worried Samantha throws caution and government regulations to the wind, organizing her own rescue effort by getting GeoGlobal to hire a paramilitary crew from a company for which Tripp once worked. From this point on, the plot line alternates primarily between Tripp and his kidnappers and the operatives whom Samantha has engaged – and whom she insists on accompanying into the danger zone. The team leader, Joe Campiello, is an attractive, well-drawn minor character.
Indeed, there is a fairly large cast of supporting players that give dimension and credibility to the world that Bodman constructs. These include Samantha’s boss, who tries to take credit for her work and can’t wait for his next appearance on cable news shows; a gang leader named Eyeshade; a friend of Samantha’s named Angela Marconi who also holds an important White House position; and Evan Ovich, another White House staffer whom I take as an irresistible, playful reference to a Bodman friend – a well-know novelist named Janet.
Final Finesse is a worthy addition to Karna Small Bodman’s growing collection of political thrillers. Authoritative, well-paced, and just plain fun to read, it also is a novel offering food for thought about the dangers that our country faces and intriguing insights into how well our government is prepared to deal with them.
While Bodman takes her readers to Oklahoma and other places where gas lines are threatened, to the White House and several other D. C. locations, and even to Venezuela – the brief reference to our dear Naples (Tripp’s parents have a winter place in Port Royal) is a bit of icing on the cake. Karna Small Bodman spends a good part of each year at home in Naples, where she is a great asset to the literary and cultural community. For biographical information on Bodman’s careers as a media professional and as a high-ranking government official, see her website www.karnabodman.com.