Reading the Riot Act

Allen Appel

I receive daily emails from digital book services announcing works downloadable to my Kindle. Most go for between $.99 and $3.99 but one or two are free. If a list includes a free action thriller, I’ll consider it.

Some who have read these books submit reviews, which can be perused by potential buyers. I tend to download three or four highly-praised books each week. Since I only spend an hour or two each day reading, books tend to stack up in my Kindle library.

I’ll start a book and if I find, after a few pages, that I don’t like it, I’ll delete it and go on to the next. If, after the first few chapters I find I’m only mildly interested in the outcome, I’ll table it and start another book; at a later date I may decide to return and finish it. As a consequence, I often find myself shuffling back and forth between stories and mixing the plots up in my mind. Then, when I try to recall what I’ve read, I get some strange narratives.

A beautiful thirty-something brunette sits alone at a Parisian outdoor café sipping café au lait and nibbling on a prune Danish. Passers-by mistake her for a fashion model but she’s actually a Mossad agent, proficient in Krav Maga, Kung Fu and karate. She can fire her Glock with unerring accuracy and devise weapons from whatever is at hand – apple cores, chewing gum wrappers, anything within reach. She’s fluent in French, English, Hebrew, Arabic, Farsi, Russian and Mandarin and can pass for any nationality, male or female. She is called Tanya and no one knows if she ever had a last name.

As she brushes pastry crumbs off her ample bosom she becomes aware of a man sitting alone at the next table. He’s tall, muscular, has piercing blue eyes and a full head of wavy black hair with just a touch of gray at the temples. He looks up, their eyes meet, and there’s an instant connection. He picks up his cognac and croissant and joins her.

They converse. He says his name is Arnold and he’s an international real-estate broker. He represents a syndicate who want to buy the Eiffel Tower and use it as a condominium for outdoors enthusiasts. But he’s really Mike Steel, an art restorer and former Navy Seal, now a mercenary under contract to the CIA. He’s an exponent of Ninjutsu, a crackerjack pilot, and is deadly with firearms, knives, boomerangs, and blowguns. He’s fluent in English only, but he has an adequate command of French and can hold his own in Cajun, Ebonics, and Esperanto. He came to France to find and terminate an international terrorist known only as the French Kisser. He has completed his assignment and is taking in the sights of Paris while awaiting new orders.

She tells him her name is Marie, a phlebotomist from Nantes on holiday. While she’s talking, he receives a coded message on his Mickey Mouse watch, which is really an experimental high-tech device with hands that spell out messages in American Sign Language. He is to return to the United States immediately. In true ninja fashion he disappears in a puff of smoke.

Alone now, she checks her phone for texts and learns that the Mossad is renting her out to the CIA for a top-priority mission. She is to fly to Washington immediately, steal a car if necessary, and report to CIA headquarters in Fairfax by 8:00 the next morning.

As she hurries back to her hotel to pack she is attacked by three members of the Albanian Mob seeking revenge for their associates whom she killed in a previous book. Unmatched in hand-to-hand combat, she leaves two of them dead and one alive, but a soprano. She gets to her hotel, packs, books a flight, and calls a taxi to take her to De Gaulle airport.

Even though she sees only his back she recognizes the taxi driver as a sleuth she teamed up with in another series. He’s an American, a former cop, now a private eye, working incognito while combing the streets of Paris for his client’s granddaughter, kidnapped from an estate in Rhode Island and sold to a French pimp. He asks for Tanya’s assistance. She tells him maybe in the next book – right now she has a flight to catch.

When Tanya gets to CIA headquarters she’s ushered into a conference room where she is surprised to find, seated between two senior agents, “Arnold,” who is now formally introduced as Mike Steel, Delta Force veteran and amateur archeologist. The two are to pose as youthful activists and infiltrate a nefarious secret organization.

A consortium of ultra-right-wing billionaires is plotting to assassinate the president and vice-president. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, a puppet of the consortium, would then assume the presidency and pave the way for a coup.

Tanya and Mike are to offer their services to the consortium as junior apprentices and destroy it from within. Mike says he has a cousin, a master of disguise, who can make them appear twenty years younger. Mike calls his cousin and makes arrangements.

After driving all night they arrive at a dingy saloon in Ho-Ho-Kus run by Mike’s uncle. Tanya instantly recognizes Mike’s cousin, working behind the bar; he’s the ex-cop/private eye/cab driver she last came face-to-back with in Paris. He explains that he found the missing granddaughter but it was too late – she had married the pimp and had no intention of returning to the dull life of an heiress in Rhode Island, so he came home to sponge off his father while waiting for another lucrative case to come along.

After hours of trying on youthful wigs, applying makeup and sticking on faux pimples, they squeeze into grungy, torn jeans and can pass as the college freshmen they will pretend to be. And there, unfortunately, the book ends. In order to learn what happens next I’ll have to buy the sequel, which is available in hardcover only, and costs $12.99 plus shipping.



About the author:

Allen Appel was born in 1937. He received his BA in English from Brooklyn College in 1959, and his subsequent career involved developing computer applications. He began writing in high school, where he had a column in the newspaper, continued writing in college as a columnist and editor, went on hiatus for close to 50 years, and resumed putting his observations in writing in 2003 when he moved to an active adult community, where he writes for the community newspaper.

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