Some Die Nameless by Wallace Stroby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What if Rambo and Lois Lane teamed up to take down a bunch of corrupt mercenaries?
OK, that would probably suck. But Wallace Stroby came up with a more realistic story along those lines that’s actually good.
Ray Devlin is a retired soldier-of-fortune living quietly in Florida that gets a visit from an old war buddy. Unfortunately, their reuntion takes a dark turn when that guy tries to murder him, and Ray has to go looking for the reason why. Meanwhile, Tracy Quinn is an investigative reporter Philadelphia trying to survive lay-offs and fend off the editors who want her to just write click bait articles instead of performing actual journalism. Tracy covers what seems to be a routine homicide, but then her path crosses Devlin as part of the story. When the two start sharing information they begin seeing a pattern with Devlin’s old employer at the center of it all, and digging into the secrets of a company that has trained killers on the payroll is a dangerous game.
I’m a big fan of Stroby’s series about a professional thief Chrissa Stone but hadn’t read any of his other books. After this one I’ll be making more of an effort to track them down because he’s got a knack of mixing thriller elements with a more grounded perspective with real tension to it.
That starts with the two main characters who are at the heart of the novel. Both are well drawn and have a true sense of verisimilitude to them. Devlin really feels like a middle-aged ex-soldier haunted by regrets. While you do get a bad ass vibe from him he’s no action movie killing machine either. Unlike many a bad portrayal of reporters in fiction, Tracy shines as a journalist who loves her job even as it seems to be dissolving around her. There’s a nice attention to detail with the stuff at the newspaper that rings true.
I also enjoyed how Stroby sets up a plot that seems like your standard conspiracy deal at first. However, once it’s rolling he does a pretty sly subversion of not having it go like you expect. There’s a lot of solid surprises and twists here, and it really doesn’t end up where it obviously seems to be going at first. Overall, this is an extremely well written thriller that’s a cut above your standard beach read.
I’ve also had a few brief interactions on social media with Wallace Stroby in the past for good reviews I gave to his Chrissa Stones books, and I was delighted to see that the main bad guy here is named Kemper. I checked with him to see if I was the inspiration for that, and he tried to burst my balloon with a logical story about a last minute character name change with the inspiration probably being seeing the story of serial Ed Kemper on Mindhunter. But I think we all know the truth. Who are you going to believe? Me or the guy who wrote the book?
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