Thursday, September 27, 2007
Adventure crime novelist displays wisdom of Solomon
By DAN BARNETT
Steve Brewer of Redding made his mark with the Bubba Mabry mystery series and stand-alone titles such as "Whipsaw" and "Bank Job."
From the looks of it, he's starting a new series featuring 33-year-old Solomon Gage, all brains and brawn stuffed into a handsome package that everyone says looks like "Mr. Clean." You know, from the commercials.
Gage is introduced in "Cutthroat" ($14.95 in paperback from Bleak House Books) as a fix-it man for billionaire Dominick Sheffield and his family enterprises headquartered in San Francisco. Gage's mother worked for Sheffield as an executive assistant until she was killed in a car wreck. "I was 14," Gage tells Lucinda Cruz, the beauteous divorce attorney, "and Dom took me in, put me through school, trained me to be his assistant."
It was no ordinary training. As Brewer writes, "Solomon was educated in business, the humanities and the special skills (martial arts, firearms, evasive driving, risk analysis, etiquette) that made him the perfect right-hand man."
The word "cutthroat" has multiple meanings in the book. Cutthroat Lodge is the name of the Sheffield family sanctuary deep in Mendocino County. The nearby creek, of course, is full of cutthroat trout. And then there is Robert Mboku, a hired killer who wields a mean machete.
The plot has rat-a-tat action to match the gunfire in the book. Dom's two ne'er-do-well sons are mixed up in some nefarious back-room deals with none other than Gen. Erasmus Goma, Supreme Military Commander of the Republic of Niger. Michael Sheffield (who was "bald and wore a mustache") and his brother Chris are poster boys for all that's wrong in the world.
As Dom muses, "What is it about the children of the rich? & Why do they so easily succumb to vice? Look at Chris, with his gluttony and his greed. Michael, with his infidelity. & A man works hard all his life to provide for his family. The money turns around and destroys those he loves. & So different from Solomon. Sometimes, Dom felt Solomon could read his mind."
Early in the story Abby, the strung-out child of Dom's daughter, doesn't understand the biblical reference to Solomon. "What was he?" she asks. "A wise king." She snorts. "That's you? You're wise?" "I'm trying."
"Cutthroat" is a tad darker and the stakes higher than some of the other recent Brewer novels. The satisfying ending opens the door for more Solomon Gage adventures. Be on the lookout.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.