It’s Book Review Wednesday, my favorite day of the week! Today, we’re bringing it back to the modern world for a story revolving around one of the most controversial natural resources in the world: oil.

 

Black Ice: The 66 Degree Conspiracy

As a senior intelligence officer with the Norwegian Police Security Service, Magnus Ose enjoys both personal and professional success. But his loving family and his career suddenly hang in the balance as he attempts to solve the mysterious deaths of several of his assets.

After discovering that confidential industry data has been stolen from oil and gas executive Finn Aspen, Magnus vows to identify the thief. But his efforts prove too late when Aspen is found shot in the head.

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Shortly after, Norwegian diplomat Alf Evenson is found dead in an “accidental” apartment building fire—the second of Magnus’s assets to die in twenty-four hours.

Magnus’s investigation uncovers an elaborate network of spies and double agents that involves assets from North America, the Balkans, Western Europe, Russia, and the CIS.

It’s only as he gets closer to the truth that he realizes he might be too late—and that the web of lies he’s trying to penetrate might have already infiltrated his work…and even his own family.

 

My Review: 3.5 Stars

For a thriller, I was less than thrilled with the book.

First off, I have to say that the book was fairly well-written. There were a few mistakes with the writing, such as:

Head hopping. Popping from one POV to the next without any real cohesion. It happened a few dozen times.

Passive verbs/adverbs. This made it a bit hard to read, as I have learned to spot them in my own writing.

My real issue with the book was the pace. There were a few action scenes, but for a thriller, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement and thrill. The climax was anti-climactic, and there was nothing to make me feel like the character was going to fail in his mission.

It was a bit hum-drum, with the focus being entirely on the police work rather than on the action. The main character spends a lot of time sitting, thinking, and researching, which, for a thriller, makes it a bit slow. Also, the book has the subtitle “The 66 Degree Conspiracy”, but there is no reference to 66 degrees or what it means. Totally confusing!

That being said, the book was detailed, incredibly complex, and kept me fairly interested. Clearly the author has an understanding of foreign affairs, international politics, machinery, the oil industry, and police work. The plot threads were all tied together in a neat bow at the end, with nothing out of place and no question left unanswered.

 

Here’s a Taste:

In Stockholm, a similar night had played out at another meeting be- tween two colleagues in the shadowy corner of another restaurant, right down to the fine food, dessert, a cognac to top it off. Dimitri looked up, dabbing his lips with a linen napkin. “Now to business,” he said calmly, without a trace of intent. “It sounds like the risks are increasing. Just how close is he? Do we need to act immediately, or have you got your man under control?”

Across the table, Adrian pondered his next move. The light of the candle cast shadows across his face, leaving him seemingly with- out expression, but in reality the cogs were turning hard and fast as he tried to stay ahead of whatever Dimitri might throw at him. He had known from the beginning that this wasn’t a social call. Dimitri wasn’t a friend in any sense of the word. They didn’t share dinner or “do lunch.” No, Adrian was an employee; Dimitri was a boss.

In fact, he was more foe than friend. Adrian knew that he could get burned like Icarus if he flew too close to the bright plans Dimitri was forging for himself and Mother Russia. Adrian knew how Dimitri operated, though, and that included the Russian’s love of chess. He was always many moves ahead of everyone else, usually all the way to checkmate. This forced Adrian to do the same lest he find himself another piece cast aside without a second thought.

“It’s being handled,” Adrian said resolutely. “I can manage Ose. He won’t make a move without my saying so.” That was true…up to this point. Magnus had checked in and kept Adrian updated at ev- ery step of his investigation. Several times, Adrian had subtly placed Magnus in check, pointing him away from considering Russia a pri- mary suspect, but it hadn’t been easy. Magnus’s instincts had proven far more adept than expected. And his tenacity! Magnus was dedi- cated and determined to find the truth. He was getting closer; it was only a matter of time. But if Adrian allowed Dimitri to believe that, or even suspect, that could spell big trouble for Adrian. And Magnus, too.

“He’s proving more…wayward than you anticipated, though.” There was an edge to Dimitri’s words.

Adrian shook his head. “I’m steering his investigation. And an in- vestigation was inevitable; it actually helps that it’s being thoroughly looked into. Nobody can say that this wasn’t done by the book. And I’ll make sure he stays away from Russia.” Adrian paused for a second, but couldn’t help adding a comment. “I can’t help it when there are trails to be followed. If your people had been more careful…”

“My people? More careful?” Dimitri’s lifeless eyes suddenly flicked with an unsettling electricity that caught Adrian’s attention. It was then that Adrian realized that he had been wrong—the lifeless, dead, unseeing look that Dimitri always gave him, the face that had haunt- ed him on previous meetings, was preferable to the intensity of this new stare, filled with a spark of something…malice, rage, hatred… or something else? Evil? Or perhaps that bright glare was charged purely by the pursuit of success, visible in the eyes of someone utterly power hungry.

Adrian fumbled for his next words. “What I mean is that if there had been fewer breadcrumbs to be found, Ose wouldn’t keep getting himself out of the corners that I’ve pushed him into. If you give a bloodhound a scent, he will seek it out. I can only throw him off the trail so many times. I’ll put sardines under his nose all day long, if I must, but to be fair to me, he does have a talent for this.”

Dimitri allowed the embers in his eyes to simmer down before replying in a cool and collected tone. “Perhaps I bought the wrong man. Perhaps a resourceful individual like this Ose would have been more valuable to me.” Dimitri was clearly aware that he was pressing Adrian’s buttons.

Adrian could feel the first dots of sweat forming on his upper lip and brow. He licked his cracked lips. “Some men can’t be bought,” Adrian said in a hushed voice. “Ose is one of them. But, if it comes to it, he can be controlled. He has vulnerabilities.”

About the Author:

Max Morgan is a former government official with insight into the workings of security intelligence issues. Having traveled and worked around the world, the author is currently employed as a private consultant. For the author’s outstanding work, Morgan was awarded the State Security and Intelligence Cross of Merit by a friendly country.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Ice-The-Degree-Conspiracy/dp/1502778556

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