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The Widow File (A Dani Britton Thriller)
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon September 10, 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book starts in a leisurely fashion then quickly takes off, setting the fastest pace of any book I've read recently. Almost all of the action takes place in one breath-taking harrowing day, but though the book gripped and terrified me so much I could hardly put it down, a short summary of The Widow File--a thriller set in an elite security firm--would not necessarily have made me want to read it. Luckily I've learned to trust S. G. Redling's skill as a storyteller, and if you look a little closer at the description there are clues this thriller is going to be special, the most important being that the main character Dani isn't glamorous, she's short and nerdy and reads people by examining their trash.

Rasmund, the security firm Dani works for, uses her idiosyncratic talents to thwart industrial espionage for high paying corporate clients. Though she's quite fond of her co-workers she's something of a loner, and gets so caught up in her work she's disappointed when their most recent job is cancelled. Since she takes her work home she has to go back to her apartment to retrieve materials--in her case it's mostly trash--that must be returned to the client, but when she gets back to Rasmund she finds all her colleagues dead, shot by the very thorough team of assassins she's now trapped in the building with.

To stay alive she must escape and stay one step ahead of the determined hit man who is sure she has something he wants, though Dani has no idea what it is. Her only weapons are a quirky intelligence that notices patterns other people don't, and the canny habits she learned from her truck driving father on their cross country trips together.

Widow File is the third book I've read by S. G. Redling, and I highly recommend them all. Though their settings and circumstances are impressively varied, so far each of her novels features an off-beat female character whose personal drama is part of a monumental event. Widow File has Dani caught up in what looks like some kind of industrial terrorism, Flowertown has a deadbeat junkie trapped in a massive chemical containment disaster that poisons and permanently quarantines a town full of people, and in Damocles the main character is a lone linguist in the midst of engineers, all thrown together on a long-term space mission in search of human-like life forms that results in first contact.
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70 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let’s assume that you’re a super-smart geeky type named Dani, who works with a bunch of kindred spirits at a very elite company specializing in corporate counter-espionage. One day a para-military team breaks in and kills nearly everybody there, while grabbing the records for your latest client. You escape certain death by a whisker, and drive quickly away; but Tom, the hit-man who runs the team, knows you were there and is hot on your tail. He’s even thoughtful enough to call you and let you know he’s coming! Next, you: a) head to the nearest law enforcement agency, bare your soul, and demand protection; or, b) for no obvious reason avoid the police, put on your Nancy Drew hat, follow the clues, and try to solve the crime, while fantasizing about the hit-man and having long, soppy telephone conversations with him. If you chose “b”, you might just like this book.

The back cover of my copy of this book claims it’s a “fast-paced thriller of uncommon intrigue.” I would call it a confused semi-action kinda-romance with silliness masquerading as intrigue. Tom isn’t your standard killer; he gets aroused rifling Dani’s underwear drawer and feels really, really bad about needing to kill her. He spends a lot of time thinking mushy thoughts about her though, rather than getting on with the business at hand. Dani and her friend, Choo-Choo (I’m not making this up!) enjoy an evening with cocktails while leisurely examining clues, even though they know that Tom knows their location. She’s totally blasé about the strong probability of her impending and messy demise. Oh, she thinks about it a bit but then, you know, she like thinks about other stuff. Eventually you’ll find out what’s behind all this, and the silliness morphs into clichéd absurdity.

This is no gritty chiller taking you for a terrifying and believable walk down the mean streets. If you are looking for a romantic novel with a bit of kick to it, here you are. If you’re looking for a realistic, believable thriller, sorry; you’ll just have to keep on looking.
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 19, 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
THE WIDOW FILE was a gritty, realistic thriller with a very complicated plot. Dani works for an exclusive and secretive investigative firm outside Washington, D.C. She is what they call a Paint. Her specialty is learning about a person by the garbage they leave behind. She is a quiet, private person whose only friends are her colleagues at work but the friendships are surface, "work" friendships.

When the boss tells them to drop their current case and pack up all materials gathered, Dani has to take a quick trip home to get evidence she had left there. When she returns, she finds most of her colleagues dead and a team of killers searching the house for evidence and any stragglers. Dani does manage to hide and then escape to the roof where she finds another colleague - Choo Choo. Together the two of them manage to elude the kill team and go on the run.

Besides telling the story from Dani's viewpoint, we get the viewpoint of the hired assassin who orchestrated the invasion of Dani's workplace and who is still determined to find and kill Dani. He doesn't have any respect for the people who hired him but he is interested in Dani. The two of them begin a phone relationship though neither can trust the other.

The story was filled with gritty realism. We see Dani's terror and confusion as she is on the run from an unknown enemy. We watch her get so tired that the idea of giving up seems reasonable. We see her stubbornness as she tries to outwit her unknown enemy. She will need to be careful, clever and lucky to get out of this situation alive.

My main problem with this thriller was that I never did figure out who the bad guys really were and who they were working for. But, since this was Dani's story, I could overlook that as I watched the way Dani survived. Fans of thrillers will enjoy this action-packed story.
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49 of 60 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 25, 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"The Widow File" is one of the best written, most exciting books that I have read in a long time! It is a mystery extraordinaire, a psychological character study, and a true reflection of our times. The principle character, Dani, is a data analyst for an elite security firm. She has her own unique method of dong things ... she examines the trash that people leave behind, coming up with who they are, and what makes them tick. In her business you have to remain a few steps ahead of everyone else. What Dani is going to find out is that through a violent twist of fate, she is going to have to use her skills to save her own life.

Her latest case, high tech industrial espionage, has just been closed down. No reason given ... simply closed down. Her team has to gather all materials related to the case, and return them to their client. Dani has a tendency to take things home with her, so she has to make a quick trip home to get the material to meet the deadline for returning it.

She is in for a shock when she gets back to the company ... a team of assassins has swept through the firm, killing everyone! And ... they are still in the building! Dani escapes, but the assassins know that she has escaped ... and they think that she has vital information with her.

The ensuing chase is a slice of life about espionage, high tech security, politics in general, what makes people tick, and how one stays alive long enough to have a future. Fast paced, well written, and highly believable ... this is a great read that I look forward to returning to!
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2013
I got this book as a Prime member, to read before it's out for the general public. So I get to tell the general public not to bother reading this so-called thriller. The characters are cardboard and drawn with no depth whatsoever. The protagonist, Dani, gets a bit more personality than the rest, but not so much that you really care about her. The dialogue is wooden and the plot totally confusing. You never really know what it's all about, even when it's finished. And the worst part of it is that you don't really care. The only good thing about it is that it is short - less than 200 pages. I see that it got 4 stars on Amazon. I can only say that people are way too generous. I don't want to waste any more words on this. That is my opinion. Play Solitaire instead, or find a real thriller, like anything by Andrew E Kaufman, or Alan Russell. Sorry, S.G., no offense.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a mystery thriller, The Widow File is pretty much of a washout but the heroine is great.

Dani works for Rasmund, a top secret security firm. Rasmund never advertises its services. If you don’t know what they are, you don’t deserve to employ them anyway. Rasmund has been hired to find out who is smuggling out industrial secrets in a high tech corporation with a large government contract. Three kinds of investigators are being used on this project. Dani and two others are Paint: they’re data analysts. Dani’s specialty is pattern recognition: she’s a whiz at figuring out people from the trash they leave behind. Then there are two Faces –combinations of con men and undercover agents, who dress up, talk fancy and weasel their way into the firm under investigation, winkling out more secrets. And as a last resort if all else fails, there are Stringers –contract agents called in to do the nasty stuff, up to and including assassination.

Then the project they are engaged on is suddenly closed down. The three Paint are told to scrub their computers of all trace of investigation and Dani is ordered to bag all her evidence for collection at Rasmund’s office center. Dani gets hung up in traffic and shows up late. She’s entering the building when she hears a sound she’s stored away in her memory among a million other useless facts—it‘s the sound of silenced guns. She hears screams a few cubicles away from hers. Something bad is happening and if she doesn’t get out of there, she knows who’ll be the next target for the guns. From that point on, the novel is a chase thriller, with superbright/sane/perceptive Dani fleeing (with a colleague, the one other apparent survivor of the massacre), then trying to find out what is going on and how to stop it, and a driven, quirky contract killer pursuing her.

If all the characters in the novel were as appealing as Dani, it would be a much better book. Most, including her colleague and the assassin, are cutout figures. In one case, a key figure who appears halfway through the book and plays a major role thereafter in the unfolding of the plot, behavior and motivation are not only thin, they are unconvincing.

In general, that’s the problem with the book too. The plot doesn’t hold up if you look at it closely. No one except Dani seems terribly real, and only Dani is appealing enough to follow what happens to her. It could have been an intriguing book (no pun intended) –a protagonist who is bright but has few of the survival skills to save her from a well-trained and relentless pursuer, and behind it all a vast, murky conspiracy. But as matter stands, File is close to a mess.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2014
Do authors pay extra to have Amazon dangle their books in the top line up of exciting new reads? I suspect it's so.

The synopsis snookered me completely: "unnerving ability to read people" from their trash; high-tech industrial espionage; armed only with her wits . . .

Alas. We see very little of the vaunted skills of the main character, Dani. We do see a lot of tiresome and improbable scurrying around with a friend named Choo-Choo (!) to avoid a psycho assassin who improbably bonds with Dani, and feels somewhat conflicted about killing her. Although he will, and enjoy it. And if you manage to make it to the end of the story and find out what's driving all the death and threat of death . . . well you still won't know that much.

Psychos, black ops, torture and more psychos . . . and yet the story is still incredibly boring. Can I have my money back?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an espionage type thriller. Dani Britton is an operative for a hush-hush security company. Her entire firm is taken out and she is next. According to the back of the book "Dani possesses the unnerving ability to read people by the trash they leave behind". I was hoping the book would be based on that but her skills aren't really put to use. Instead, she spends most of her time avoiding liquidation.

At 247 pages, the book was a quick read and the plot straightforward. However, I found the writing somewhat difficult to read and the words did not flow smoothly. Other than that I found the characters quite well done. I had a few nitpicks on what I thought were technological faux-pas, but if you can get past the writing, it was not bad.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2014
It was ok in the beginning. The ending is horrible and confusing. Save your money and time. Don't buy this book. There are far better books in this category.
Spoiler Alert.
At one point protagonist is attracted to wards male counterpart and at another point she just walks away after realizing his suicidal ideas. I don't like it at all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It took me a chapter to get the hang of this author's writing style. But once I got into the rhythm of the story, I did not want to put the book down. It turned out to be a riveting and quick read.

In this debut novel, I felt the author adeptly described the main characters. The story, and its characters, blossomed chapter by chapter. It was an effective way to introduce and build the main characters: I don't much care for long, involved introductory passages as a means to build characters. I liked the way Redling handled it. On the other hand, the bad guys could have used a bit more psychological input.

The story line was plausible: Do you really know exactly who you work for? Do you know all the hidden agendas? Or do you just keep your mind focused on your work? Does not knowing all that goes on in the background sometimes come back and bite you in the backside?

I could not give this book a five-star rating, as I found the ending unsatisfactory: Too rushed and abrupt; too many coincidences; too many unknowns accepted by too many characters, and too much left unsaid.

But there is a lot of potential here. I will gladly read another novel by S.G. Redling.
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