Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Robert Ferrigno's "The Girl Who Cried Wolf": Kindle Book Review

Skilled thrillers with a moral undertone, Robert Ferrigno's "Assassin Trilogy" entertained me and kept me intrigued by an alternate future history of an America split between Islamic sharia rule and Bible-Belt fanatics. Reviewing the three titles back in 2009, I noted Ferrigno's ability, even when plots bristled with betrayals and duplicity, to keep the ethical dilemmas of his vengeful villains and conniving heroes vivid among the mayhem caused by ideologies grown rigid, cruel, and hypocritical.

No surprise that his new novel features Glenn, an unhinged eco-activist with a penchant for murder in the cause of a "PMS" Mother Nature. I confess as a native Californian a sneaking sympathy for environmentalists, pitted against McMansions and despoilers of the coast, so I approached this e-book (provided for review) curiously. The bias from the start is quite tipped against Glenn, Tree, and Eli: the Monkey Boyz (a jaundiced nod to Edward Abbey's early-1970s Monkey Wrench Gang?) come off sounding like Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli. Ferrigno's conveyance of their inner monologues and spoken dialogues doesn't spark much confidence in the state of current education of Western American youth. Their contact, Cleo, contrasts as a bit more savvy, for her own reasons we learn.

In Seattle, the Boyz kidnap Remy, who as her name hints is from a more luxurious social status.  Her father, Brandt, as a magnate, is judged guilty by Glenn for crimes against old growth. Glenn's using Tree and Eli as dupes for his own scheme hatched with Cleo to profit off of Remy's abduction. Of course, with Remy a Stanford-educated entertainment lawyer, and the aspiring ex-cop "tough guy" Mack Armitage (great name) teaming with Seattle detective Marcus Hobbs, complications ensue.

True to form as in the Assassin books, Ferrigno delves into a radicalized mindset to reveal some nuance. The Birkenstocks and granola anarchist milieu of Seattle, where he lives, is ripe for parody, but the author does not take too many potshots. While the book is tilted, it does show the other side. The difficulty is that most of the rumpled and marginal ecologists aren't very compelling in their articulation of their cause, and while this may be accurate in terms of their diction, it doesn't generate much reader enthusiasm for what is "naturally" a dramatic campaign. He alludes to one character's taking on a "deep woods glide" that shows a welcome eye for what immersion in nature can offer, and toxic waste, poaching, and logging receive pointed observation.

People come alive best with brief scenes of the first meetings of Hobbs and Mack, and with Sky as an inmate who warms a bit to Mack: supporting characters are not many, but Ferrigno at his best can flesh them out. I cannot reveal the ultimate antagonist although this figure appears early on: suffice to say as with previous villains Ferrigno creates I found this character the most intriguing by far. I wanted much more of this character. Others--including the main antagonist--move the plot along but I found them less likable and at times even dull. Maybe they heightened the impact of others. Yet, some key figures often lacked a flair and over-the-top boastfulness that made their counterparts in the Assassin books so enjoyable if also in the service of a thriller that might leap the limits of the plausible. Mack to me seemed more drab and functional, but some of the others drew me in as the plot spun about, the usual body count rising as the climax approached.

Any thriller relies on happenstance paired with smarts, chance with luck, and random encounters with set-ups. Ferrigno's in his element as he delivers a rousing tale. I'm between three and four stars as this relies too much on stereotypes, but these move action efficiently. This author knows his genre and delivers at a rapid pace, in nearly a hundred short chapters.

True, it's not very subtle in its satire or bad guys. His choreographed violence remains (as in Darwin in the Assassin books) his most vivid skill, delivered here again in cinematic scope if with far less of a total casualty list than that trilogy. Ferrigno puts in enough twists; this kept me reading it all in one sitting, ending two hours after midnight. (Amazon US 3-30-13)

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