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Four Days to Veracruz: A Novel Hardcover – June 3, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Darren Phillips, a major in the Marines, and his wife, Kate, never dreamed they would spend their Mexico honeymoon chasing down drug dealers and crooked federales, but that's precisely what happens in this shoot-and-pursuit thriller. West (Sharkman Six) wastes no time piling up the bodies with gunfights, stabbings, torture and mutilation. Both Darren and Kate are superb athletes, which comes in handy on the four-day adventure that takes them from Acapulco to Veracruz, across miles of deserts and mountains. Kidnapped by drug dealers, Darren and Kate kill their captors and escape with the drug cartel's super-secret, encrypted satellite phone, which they assume is just an ordinary cell phone. The drug cartel wants to retrieve the phone, but so do the CIA and FBI, who have been listening in. Every time Darren and Kate try to call for help, the phone reveals their location to the trackers and assassins following them. As Darren and Kate run for their lives, the CIA and FBI feud over jurisdiction, and the drug lords send an Aztec serial killer and a posse of corrupt cops after them. Meanwhile, ex-Marine Gavin Kelly (the hero of Sharkman Six), sneaks into Mexico to rescue his two friends, but runs into a vengeful DEA agent with a different agenda. The action is frequent and bloody, and the characters are Teflon superheroes whose severe injuries barely slow them down. There's plenty of excitement here, but not much else.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The author, a former marine platoon leader who now works as a commodities trader, follows up his exciting Sharkman Six (2001) with another fast-paced adventure. Essentially an extended chase scene, the novel features a resourceful husband and wife (he's a high-placed military aide, she's an adventure athlete) who, while on vacation, stumble across the hideout of a drug-cartel leader and soon find themselves chased through the Mexican mountains by an assortment of pursuers, including the Mexican police and the CIA. Gavin Kelly, Sharkman Six's star player, makes an appearance here, but this isn't a sequel. Four Days to Veracruz may not be completely original--there are shelves full of thrillers in which the heroes must rely on their wits to evade pursuers who are better equipped and prepared to kill, if necessary--but it is well executed, surprising, suspenseful, and satisfying. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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5 stars - absolutely outstanding, a rarely fine read, I try to keep the standards ultra high on these so that only the very best of my very favorite books get this
4 stars - very good book, the usual award for good books that I like
3 stars - average book, pretty good overall, but nothing really separating it from the pack, most books that I read would fall into this category
2 stars - Decent, but with elements that I dislike for whatever reason
1 star - Very bad, this is as rare as 5 stars and maybe more so as I can usually find something redeeming about a book. Usually I can sense the truly horrible books without reading them, or if I do mistakenly start on one, I might not finish it, so there aren't likely to be too many reviews on one star books by me.
That said, the reasons why I give this book a 2:
First of all, I had extremely high expectations due to his previous book, "Sharkman Six". It was very realistic, and one of the best works of military fiction I have ever read. Because of that, I was looking forward to this work, and I continue to eagerly await his next book, hoping it will be more like "Sharkman Six" than "Four Days to Veracruz".
This book has a lot of interesting elements, and is basically a type of escape story, which is one of my favorite type of plots. Some of the characters from the first book make a re-appearance, so again, my expectations were high. However, the book quickly started devolving into the realms of pure fantasy. Strange and unlikely events come one after another. I have no problem believing that a pair of endurance racers and a football player could accomplish the physical feats that they do in the book, but the gunfights for instance seem just a little too "Hollywoodish". Two people taking on practically a whole police department, helicopters and all, and leaving the body count that they pile up just seems way over the top.
Also, some of the characterization seems way too cartoonish and stereotypical at times, which is in sharp contrast to the very realistic characters from the first book.
All in all, it is an exciting read, and well written in many ways, but it fails the realism test which is ultra important to me. If you crave pure action wall to wall, along the line of a summer blockbuster, this may be your speed, but if you are very demanding along the lines of realism, even in fiction books, as I am, you may be disappointed as I was.
Eagerly awaiting Owen West's next work...
When I started this book I had no idea what I was getting into. The pacing was relentless. The shear action and drama throughout made you want to marathon read to the end. Sure the protagonists seemed to be able to take a lot of pain and punishment, that which would kill the normal man, but the writing was so vivid it made for great escapist fiction.
Kate persuades her husband to "break the rules" and kayak in a feral part of the country far from civilization. However, that takes them to a place where tourists, albeit even perfect physical specimens, do not want to travel without a platoon of Darren's comrades in arms. Drug cartel soldiers assault the duo though Darren and Kate manage to kill the first wave and steal a cell phone. The drug cartel needs that phone back as it is actually an encrypted satellite phone that the CIA and FBI, who have been tapping into it, also want back in the enemy's hands. Every time the duo uses the phone in their trek towards Vera Cruz, the device reveals their location to the assassins chasing after them.
FOUR DAYS TO VERACRUZ is an exciting macho (even with a female co-lead) action thriller that goes full throttle and beyond until the finish as the story line is all high octane energy. Characters from SHARKMAN SIX including the hero of that novel are part of the thrills so those fans of Owen West have more to cheer for the good guys. With a major death toll and a lead couple inhumanly ignoring or instantly healing from severe traumas while trekking in a hostile terrain, fans of this action adventures will want to join the courageous couple on their honeymoon.
Four Days to Veracruz follows the flight of a couple of endurance athletes who stumble onto the activities of a major drug cartel while honeymooning in Acapulco. They unwittingly pocket a spread-spectrum, GPS-equipped satellite phone which prompts a multilateral manhunt as the cartel, Federales, DEA, CIA, and FBI pursue the couple across Mexico to the Gulf. A background theme of the book is that intelligence agencies may have valid reasons for resisting cooperation.
Owen West's writing and dialog are transparent and carefully crafted. The plot is just complex enough, with multiple threads that provide dramatic relief as needed. The characterization does not reach the level of fine literature, but most of the characters are interesting and original. The overall effect is very cinematic, not unlike (but superior to) my previously favorite thriller, The Bourne Identity.
I was particularly pleased that Four Days to Veracruz is not encumbered by the PC constraints that make so many recent "thrillers" read like Five Year Plans.
My only criticism of the book is that it contains an uncomfortable level of physical suffering and violence described from the victims' perspective. But if you have a taste for high-octane adventure, you will swallow this book whole.