Monday, October 28, 2013

Outlaw--Mark Sullivan

First line: "In a private dining room above an alley on the crowded peninsula of Kowloon, the Moon Dragon spooned rare tea leaves into a fired clay pot while using his peripheral vision to examine his visitor for any sign of worry."

Robin Monarch calls himself a thief but has lived a varied life. These days he's freelance and the U.S. government has called him in to rescue the Secretary of State who was kidnapped by an extremist group calling itself the Sons of Prophesy during a secret meeting with the Chinese and Indian foreign ministers. The group has demanded money and the release of political prisoners from all three countries or the hostages will be executed, but the U.S. will not negotiate with terrorists.

Monarch's job is not just to rescue the Secretary of State but first to locate her, as there's no indication where this group is holding the hostages. He and his team--including an agent from China and one from India--set off to unravel the secrets of The Sons of Prophesy before the execution deadline. Crisscrossing the world as the Sons of Prophecy take credit for several more international incidents, the rescue team discovers that this is no ordinary terrorist group and it's certainly no ordinary kidnapping.

Outlaw is Mark Sullivan's second book in his Robin Monarch series. Whether you've read Rogue, the first in the series, or not, Outlaw is easy to pick up--a fast-paced, high-intensity thriller that deftly stands on its own.

Robin Monarch is a fun addition to the world of crime fiction protagonists. He's smart, witty and human. As Sullivan illustrates in Outlaw, if you cut Monarch, he bleeds. He's also compassionate and loyal. The bonds he has with his friends make him a richer, more likeable character than the lone superhero type.

I especially enjoyed Sullivan's female characters in Outlaw. From Secretary of State Agnes Lawton to Monarch's dependable Gloria Barnett to the Chinese MSS agent Song Le. Even the despicable Madame Long, wife to the triad leader, is a well-developed strong female role. The other element of Sullivan's character development that I appreciated was his tendency to not focus on physical appearance, rather he lets the characters' actions, thoughts, behaviors build them and make them attractive or not.

Sullivan chose to work with characters who would be among the world's smartest people and his plot reflects that as well. The mystery is an intricate entanglement of politics, religion and greed. It's also timely given current world events.

The end left me with mixed feelings. One aspect of it I felt was a brilliant use of technique while another aspect left me disappointed. I'll leave it at that to avoid spoilers but if you read Outlaw and want to chat about the end, by all means, drop me a line. I do encourage you to read Outlaw. I believe Sullivan has put a fresh twist on an element of the thriller world that is becoming cliché. I look forward to seeing where he takes this thief named Robin Monarch.

Outlaw is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1250023612). It is also available as a Macmillan unabridged audio (ISBN: 978-1427233059) narrated by Jeff Gurner.

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