Tag Archives: Robert Lane

Failure to protect a witness rocks self-esteem of protagonist

A Beautiful Voice, by Robert Lane. Mason Alley Publishing. 404 pages. Trade Paperback $14.95.

Lane

It’s difficult, and not terribly important, to summarize the plot of Robert Lane’s latest novel, the sixth in his “Jake Travis” series. The attraction of this crime thriller is less in the plot line than in the high quality of characterization, physical setting, and moral ambiance. Meeting Jake and his friends, his girlfriend Kathleen, and several other well-drawn characters who are newly developed for this novel is the real pleasure.

 

Here’s the set-up: When a government agency assigns Jake to safeguard a witness who is brought into the U. S. to testify about the head of a major drug syndicate, the idea is that the witness will keep a low profile. Without warning, this man, an accountant with priceless information, arrives with a family – a wife, two young daughters, and an even younger boy. When the family disappears just a few days later, Jake gathers that he has been misinformed, but why? What has happened to Alejandro Vizcarro and his young family?

Lots of surprises follow, including the fact that the gorgeous wife, Martina, is actually the accountant’s first daughter, much older that her siblings. And it’s possible that one of the children is not a sibling to the others.

The Mexican drug cartel leader, Sergio Flores, has a thriving business. His tainted drugs kill thousands of Americans. No wonder the U. S. government wants him brought to justice. In addition, he has murdered two DEA agents. Some of his books are kept by an American, Richard Bannon, and it’s the hope of Jake’s associates that Mr. Vizcarro’s testimony will tumble Bannon and, in turn, Flores.

Well things just don’t work out. Vizcarro’s protection, set in place by Jake, is just not sufficient. A remaining part of the mystery is the to discover and protect Vizcarro’s children. Assuming they are still alive.

As readers follow the plans that Jake puts in place for himself and his comrades, they enter Jake’s world more fully. This is a world of weapons that Jake’s team knows how to use. It is a world of waterways along the western edge of the Florida peninsula (the St. Petersburg area) that is at once the setting for Jake’s home and the action center of the novel. It is a world of magnificent boats and crime-busting accessories that Jake has long mastered. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 4, 2019 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the September 5 Bonita Springs and Charlotte County editions, and the September 12 Naples and Key West editions, click here: A Beautiful Voice

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Politics and power block the truth about mysterious disappearance

Naked We Came, by Robert Lane. Mason Alley Publishing. 355 pages. Trade paperback $14.95, Kindle e-book, $4.99.

This fifth Jake Travis Novel has plenty of Mr. Lane’s familiar mix of grit and literary style plus a more personal premise than the earlier titles. When a man who was the primary suspect in his missing sister’s disappearance is found dead on the beach near Jake’s home, the floodgates of emotions long held in check open and threaten to overwhelm him.

Why now, thirty years after her abduction, has this man Hawkins been left to be discovered? Is the confession he wrote just before his body washed ashore genuine or coerced? Jake feels that latter is likely, and that the identifying DNA evidence has been manipulated.

The discovery of the corpse raises hundreds of questions, but three are central. What happened to Jake’s slightly older sister, whom Jake had last seen when she was seven? Is there any chance that she is alive? Was Jake in any way responsible for leaving her vulnerable?

Riddled with long-suppressed despair and guilt, Jake commits himself to find the answers and mete out personal justice to whomever is responsible for her disappearance and possibly her death.

Robert Lane

All of Jake’s investigative and martial skills, along with those of his loyal friends and the understanding of his devoted girlfriend, will be needed to sustain Jake in this time of raging personal need.

Before long, Jake discovers that people in private and governmental corridors of power are determined to thwart his quest. The truth about what happened to Brittany includes secrets that they need to keep hidden. Following up on the long-terminated official investigation of her disappearance does not get Jake far, but it does bring the forces arrayed against him to attention.

Searching for a starting point to pursue the thirty-year-old crime, Jake retraces events at the southwest Florida Vanderbilt Reef Motel where he and his family were vacationing. His efforts lead to three linked figures who would have been young men spending time in the area back then. Well-connected attorney Bernard Carlsberg is one of them. Carlsberg has a connection to a shady Russian wheeler-dealer named Peter Omarov. And Omarov has connections to U.S. government agents who protect Omarov because he is a valuable source: a conduit to what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine. The third man, David LeClair, is clearly a key – but Jake learns that LeClair has been dead for thirty years. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 1, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 2 issues of the Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Naked We Came  

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Motives and means collide in shadowy Sunshine State thriller

The Gail Force, by Robert Lane. Mason Alley Publishing. 341 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.

This fourth title in the Jake Travis series maintains the powerful rush of suspense, the intricate observations about places and personalities, and the complex tradecraft of its hero that has come to be expected. The task that Jake undertakes is unusually convoluted, the stakes are high, and the women are so very, very attractive. gailforce-hi-res

Karl Anderson and his pretty wife Riley have found trouble. Karl has disappointed a sinister fellow named Phillip Agatha who under the cover of running an art gallery is an entrepreneur in blackmail and murder. Karl does not escape Agatha’s wrath, but he manages to get Riley on her way to safety. Soon she is depending on Jake to protect her, which means eventually dealing with Agatha.

Agatha, known as the Fat Man, is the target of an FBI investigation, but he seems to lead a charmed life for one in this position. Though there may be people he deals with who would like to rat him out, he may have influence inside the FBI, someone whose personal and professional interests benefit from Agatha’s services. This is truly one of those “you can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys” situations, and Mr. Lane handles all the implications and nuances of this morally murky environment with great skill.

Jake and his long-time, super-skilled buddies team up with an FBI sting meant to bring down Agatha. Millions of dollars flow in and out of various accounts to make this happen. This alliance is managed by Jake’s FBI insider, attractive female Agent Binelli with whom Jake has partnered before. This task brings him, under cover of course, to Agatha’s offices and his super yacht, “The Gail Force.” Agatha is a man of incredible taste and the money to indulge it. He’d like to keep it that way. He sends his lovely assistant Christina to show Jake around. She is quite a distraction, and their relationships builds from role playing to flirtation and is on the edge of becoming much more.

Robert Lane

Robert Lane

In fact, just as suspenseful as the painstakingly schemed mission is the growing magnetism between Jake and the much younger Christina. Jake’s attraction to her complicates the reader’s understanding of his healthy, uplifting, and fortunate relationship with Kathleen. It’s clear that Kathleen, developed in the previous Jake Travis novels, is the love of his life, the perfect mate, and perhaps more than he deserves. The scenes between them are magic in every way. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 23, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 24 Naples, Bonita Springs, Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Gail Force

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Beautifully paced and structured mystery thriller reveals ugly truths

The Cardinal’s Sin, by Robert Lane. Mason Alley Publishing. 368 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.

The third “Jake Travis” novel meets and beats any expectations that Mr.Lane’s readers developed from enjoying “The Second Letter” and “Cooler Than Blood,” both reviewed in these pages. It starts with a bang and never lets up. The bang is Jake’s assignment: he is tasked with killing an assassin who targets the relatives and other loved ones of special operations agents. Yes, this is exactly it. He must assassinate an assassin.

Lane

Lane

As they must in order to have a story line, things go wrong. Jake seriously compromises his relationship with Kathleen, the love of his life, with whom he has been enjoying a European vacation when the assignment reaches him. Understandably, he keeps his assignment from her, but this turns out to be a mistake. Meaning to protect her, he inevitably belittles her. Much of this fine novel provides a moving and sophisticated exploration of the relationship between Kathleen and Jake, one in which the killing power of words vies with the powerful finality of the assassin’s craft.

And there is this other mistake. Jake has been informed that his target is a man who uses the disguise of a Cardinal’s garb. At the proper time and at the proper place, he shoots the faux Cardinal; however, he shoots an actual Cardinal – a man who might have had a death wish.

The Cardinal is a man named Giovanni Antinori, a popular and progressive prelate known as the People’s Cardinal.  Somehow, he had replaced Jake’s intended Kensington Gardens target, a man known as Alexander Paretsky, whose recent work against U. S. interests had followed a major security breach revealing the names of U. S. clandestine agents.

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A photograph in his victim’s hand eventually becomes an important item in the investigation that Jake and his cohorts conduct, along with assistance from an FBI connection. Mr. Lane’s readers know these carefully etched characters. One is Garrett, a co-worker on Jake’s assignments directed by Colonel Janssen. Another is Morgan, Jake’s neighbor on paradisiacal St. Pete’s Island. FBI special agent Natalie Binelli seems a reluctant contributor of information, but a most useful one.

The colonel tells Jake that Paretsky has been seen with a beautiful woman named René Lambert, whose father Donald just happens to live an island away from Jake, and she becomes a key figure in Jake’s effort to uncover Paretsky and put an end to his killing spree. But she proves hard to find. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 4, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 5 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Cardinal’s Sin

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A classic Florida detective tale with distressed damsels galore

Cooler Than Blood, by Robert Lane. Mason Alley Publishing. 316 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.

Jake Travis, Mr. Lane’s multi-skilled private investigator, is at it again. A damsel in distress taps into his needs and self-image. Jake is surprised to run into the very attractive Susan Blake for whom he had formed a quick and strong attraction a while back. He didn’t let it go anywhere, as he knows better. The understanding and accommodating Kathleen is the love of his life, and Jake doesn’t want to undermine their relationship, though he manages to do just that on a regular basis in spite of his good intentions. CoolerThanBloodCover

Though Cooler Than Blood is billed as a standalone novel, the backgrounding of characters who are first presented in The Second Letter seems to me both insufficient and a bit annoying. Yes, it’s enjoyable and riveting in itself, but reading it after The Second Letter will add significant depth and reverberations.

Susan is reluctant to ask Jake for a favor, but she knows that he might be just the guy to find out what has happened to her headstrong niece, Jenny, who had come to live with her but has mysteriously disappeared. Eighteen year old Jenny had been last seen on Fort Myers Beach, where she had left her attacker for dead!

Jake puts his usual team together, stalwarts Morgan and Garrett, and they devise a plan for locating and rescuing Jenny – assuming she is alive and being held against her will.

A series of scenes that focus on Jenny’s predicament show that such is exactly the case. In those scenes, Jenny’s resilience and confidence are tested and important details about her background are revealed. These fascinating passages, in which we follow Jenny’s thought, memories, and emotions, lift Cooler Than Blood into a high realm of gritty achievement.

Lane

Lane

We follow Jake up and down the Gulf Coast, as he focuses first on the brothers of Jenny’s assailants and then some members of a regional criminal operation with ties to major players. The cast of characters grows, as do the opportunities for Jake to practice his skills. Often enough, he guesses wrong about one or another aspect of the case. Each failure lessens the chance for Jenny’s survival: missing persons not found quickly are often not found alive.

Jake’s attempts to engage local police in the case are met with a tepid response. This is not a case on which they want to waste their resources. Teenagers run away all the time, and they show up when they want to. As the plot progresses, questions are raised about the officer who questioned Jenny before she disappeared. The interview recording just doesn’t seem quite right.

Jenny’s life is at risk because it’s believed she knows that a huge amount money that was in her attacker’s possession is hidden. Others believe she also knows where it is. If this money was stolen, then someone out there wants his money back. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 18, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 19 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here Florida Weekly – Cooler 1 and here Florida Weekly – Cooler 2.

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Cold War backstory energizes debut of relentless sleuth

The Second Letter, by Robert Lane. Mason Alley Publishing. 330 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.

This is hefty, solid, tough guy mystery writing. A character named Jake Travis is screaming for comparison with Hemingway’s world-weary Jake Barnes, Paul Levine’s Jake Lassiter, and of course, John D. McDonald’s iconoclastic protagonist Travis McGee. Mr. Lane’s invention holds up well while carrying its own distinctiveness. Too smart and too mouthy for his own good, Jake Travis lives in a moral twilight that threatens to plunge him into total darkness.  Second_Letter_Cover

Mr. Lane blends a noir outlook with posh settings.

Jake, a retired Special Forces operative, performs contract work for his former boss. His partner on such missions is a man named Garrett. They are tasked with working out the terms of a possibly compromising letter being turned over to the U. S. Government. The man who has the letter, Raydel Escobar, would like to exchange it for his IRS debt of seven million dollars.

Escobar lives an elegant life from the proceeds of his (largely stolen) carpet and rug business and the three gentleman’s clubs (better known as “skin clubs”) he runs in Tampa. He has a gorgeous wife, a gorgeous home, and a position in the food chain of illegal enterprises that puts him under associates far more powerful and ruthlessly lethal than he is.

Mr. Lane has structured the novel to rock back and forth between Jake’s perspective and Escobar’s, a device that is highly serviceable in raising suspense and deepening reader interest.

Lane

Lane

The letter goes back to 1961 and is thought to be connected to the Bay of Pigs fiasco. It had been in the possession of Dorothy Harrison, who lived on Long Key off St. Petersburg, Florida. Her late husband’s friend and colleague, Ted Sullivan, delivered it to her several months after Jim Harrison’s death in a CIA plane crash. Dorothy chose not to read it and asked her Cuban gardener, Angelo, to hide it. After her own death decades later, her home became a museum. Now Escobar has somehow come across the letter and the government wants it. Why is it so valuable?

Well, let’s just say it’s from Allen Dulles (CIA director) to Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. And it’s not the only letter in the envelope.

As Jake, Garrett, and Jake’s neighbor Morgan scout out Escobar’s estate and plan to make their move, readers get to enjoy Mr. Lane’s masterful handling of the Southwest Florida setting. They also get to feed their gluttony for descriptions of weaponry, elite boats, and special covert operations. Well, covert up to a point. In these various areas of thriller interest, Randy Wayne White now has a rival. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 9, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 10 Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, Naples, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Lane.

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