Monday, February 18, 2013
Spotlight: Shadow of Betrayal by Brett Battles
The meeting place was carefully chosen: an abandoned church in rural Ireland just after dark. For Jonathan Quinn—a freelance operative and professional “cleaner”—the job was only to observe. If his cleanup skills were needed, it would mean things had gone horribly wrong. But an assassin hidden in a tree assured just that. And suddenly Quinn had four dead bodies to dispose of and one astounding clue—to a mystery that is about to spin wildly out of control.
Three jobs, no questions. That was the deal Quinn had struck with his client at the Office. Unfortunately for him, Ireland was just the first. Now Quinn, along with his colleague and girlfriend—the lethal Orlando—has a new assignment touched off by the killings in Ireland. Their quarry is a U.N. aide worker named Marion Dupuis who has suddenly disappeared from her assignment in war-torn Africa. When Quinn finally catches a glimpse of her, she quickly flees, frantic and scared. And not alone.
For Quinn the assignment has now changed. Find Marion Dupuis, and the child she is protecting, and keep them from harm. If it were only that easy.
Soon Quinn and Orlando find themselves in a bunker in the California hills, where Quinn will unearth a horrifying plot that is about to reach stage critical for a gathering of world leaders—and an act of terror more cunning, and more insidious, than anyone can guess.
Fast, smart, sleek, and stunning, Shadow of Betrayal is vintage Brett Battles: a gritty, gripping masterpiece of suspense, a thriller that makes the pulse pound—and stirs the heart as well.
Quinn could see them now. There were two of them, crouched low and half-hidden by the thick brush. As Quinn and Nate watched, one of the men sprinted forward, stopping only when he reached the outside of the church wall. He then moved down the wall until he came to what had once been a doorway, and peered inside.
"Are we going to play games, or are we going to meet?" It was Otero. He was still standing in the middle of the church, not concealing his presence. When there was no response, he said, "Two minutes and we're leaving."
The man who had been looking into the church from the doorway glanced back at his partner and waved for him to come over.
"Quinn," Nate said.
"I thought they were only allowed one companion."
Quinn shot Nate a glance, then looked at a monitor Nate was pointing at. It was the one covering the north approach to the church, the way Otero and Ownby had come.
"I don't see anything," Quinn said.
"In the tree," Nate said. He leaned forward and touched the screen.
For half a second, Quinn still didn't see anything, then a slight movement revealed the form of a man lying prone on one of the branches, facing toward the church.
A quick glance at a monitor that gave a broader view of that side of the church confirmed Quinn's suspicion that the man was high enough to see through the missing roof into the abandoned structure.
Quinn pushed the mic button again. "Peter, we have a problem."
"Check the feed to camera six. In the tree, near the top of the image."
There was a pause.
"Do you see him?" Quinn asked.
"Is he one of yours?"
"I played by the rules. Only two," Peter said. "He must be one of theirs."
Quinn wasn't convinced of that, but there was no time to argue the point. On another monitor the two newcomers stepped through the doorway, entered the church, and walked a couple paces before stopping. They looked nervous, like this was the first time they had ever done anything like this.
"You need to abort right now," Quinn said.
"We need that information," Peter said.
"Peter," Quinn said, "if you don't abort, you might not get anything."
At the church Otero said, "You guys are going to have to come a little closer."
The taller of the two men shook his head. "We are fine here. I think you have something to show us."
Otero smiled, then tossed a coin in the air so that it landed a foot in front of his counterparts.
"Your turn," Otero said.
The tall man tossed his own coin toward Otero. This was the prearranged recognition signal. Otero had been carrying a fifty-yen Japanese coin, and the informant a 1998 Canadian half-dollar.
"Peter!" Quinn said.
"The meet's already started," Peter said. "They won't answer their phones until they're back in their car."
"They might not even make it back to their car," Quinn said, then let go of the button.
"We can start the van," Nate suggested. "That should throw everyone into a panic. We could even fire off a shot."
It was an excellent idea, Quinn thought. He relayed it to Peter.
There was a pause, then Peter said, "Do it."
Quinn pulled his SIG Sauer P226 out of the holster under his left arm as Nate moved toward the back door to open it.
Several rapid flashes from one of the monitors caught Quinn's eye. It was the one showing the close-up of the man in the tree. He glanced at the view of the church. Otero, Ownby, and the man who had been talking for the other party were all on the ground and not moving.
The final man had just exited the church and was making a run for it. Then there was another flash. The man jerked to the left, his momentum dropping him into a bush at the side of the trail. Like the others, he didn't get up.
"Stop," Quinn said to Nate.
The door was already half opened.
"Close it. Quietly."
Nate shut the door as Quinn sat back down.
Quinn pushed the button. "Your op is blown."
"I can fucking see that," Peter said. "Goddammit! You need to keep whoever that is from getting to the bodies. One of those guys is carrying something we need."
"Don't know if you noticed," Quinn said, "but your men are probably dead. That guy in the tree's got a silenced rifle, and I'm not really interested in walking into his range."
"Do what you were going to do before! Scare him off. He's not going to want to get caught."
Quinn took a deep breath, then nodded at Nate to open the door again. He checked monitor six. The assassin was holding his position, waiting to see if anyone else was going to show up.
Quinn pulled one of the remote communication sets from a bag near the recorders. He slipped the receiver over his ear, then climbed out of the van.
"Talk me in," he said to Nate.
"You're going to try to take him out?" Nate asked, surprised.
Quinn shook his head. "I'm just going to convince him to go someplace else."
"You want your suppressor?" Nate asked.
Quinn paused for a second. If things went as planned, he'd need the noise of the shot to scare the guy off. But if things got off track?
"Toss it to me," he said.
Nate disappeared for a second, then stepped back into the doorway and threw a dark cylinder to Quinn.
Quinn stuffed it in the front pocket of his jacket as best he could. Once it was secure, he nodded back at the van. "Talk me in. You're my eyes, so try not to get me killed."
Praise for Shadow of Betrayal:
"The best word I can use to describe his writing is ADDICTIVE. Razor-sharp prose bites deep, cuts to a raw nerve, and leaves you… craving more. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you." – James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author
Brett Battles lives in Los Angeles and is the author of two acclaimed novels in the Jonathan Quinn series: The Cleaner, which was nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel, and The Deceived, which was nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller. He is at work on the fourth book in the series.
You can visit Brett Battles online at http://brettbattles.com/.
This spotlight first appeared at The Book Connection.