"1. Never read any book that is not a year old. 2. Never read any but famed books. 3. Never read any but what you like; or, in Shakspeare's phrase, 'No profit goes where is no pleasure ta'en: In brief, sir, study what you most affect.'"

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Books"
Quiet Ops, by Bob Burton & L. J. Martin

What this country needs, in my opinion, is more cheerful tough guys. Probably in real life, certainly in literature. Much fine work has been done in the realm of the grim and tragic hard-boiled mystery, but there’s no actual law that says a detective who can handle himself in a fight has to be an emotional wreck. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser was a happy exception (for a while, anyway), and Bob Burton’s (with L. J. Martin) bounty hunter hero Brad Benedict is another. Quiet Ops is the first novel I’ve read from this team (Bob Burton is a real life bounty hunter), but I want to read more.

Brad Benedict is a man with a good life, and he enjoys it. He makes a nice income as a high-end skip tracer, enough to have a comfortable life, a nice office, a couple of expensive cars, and a succession of beautiful girlfriends. With the help of his regular associates Cocoa and T-Rex, and the lovely Monique who runs his east coast office in Florida, he goes after rapper Jo Jo Bling, who has drugged and kidnapped the twin daughters of Florida billionaire Grenwald Stanton. The girls are restored to their family, and their father (not to Brad’s surprise) balks at paying the fee, but before Brad can begin applying pressure (something he knows how to do, even with billionaires), Stanton himself is kidnapped, and Brad and company go to work again – though Brad still finds time to romance a pretty female cop.

There’s a sunny quality to this book that surprised and pleased me. Brad doesn’t waste our time bellyaching about past traumas and existential guilt. He’s also an actual nice guy – capable of making a genuine gesture of grace to a former enemy at one point. (His giant associate Cocoa, by the way, is described without irony or sarcasm as a church-going Congregationalist who doesn’t stand for foul language. Brad notes that he himself doesn’t swear much, which is generally true.)

There are weaknesses in the book. The spelling and grammar sometimes could use correction, and I thought the plot was unnecessarily complicated. But I came away from Quiet Ops feeling good. That’s pretty rare in my reading.

Cautions for language (there’s some rough language in spite of what I said above), violence (not over the top) and adult themes (but nothing explicit). Recommended.


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Comments on "Quiet Ops, by Bob Burton & L. J. Martin":
1. Loren Eaton - 02/05/2013 8:54 am EST

What this country needs, in my opinion, is more cheerful tough guys.

Lars, have you watched Justified? It just (no pun intended) about fits the bill. I thought about it after finishing the first season of Luther, which was well-done but a tad too grim for my taste. Justified mixes a lot of humor in with the hardboiled stuff, at least for the the first two seasons.

2. Lars Walker - 02/05/2013 10:10 am EST

I watched the first season, back when I had the Netflix DVD service. Unfortunately they aren't streaming it, so far. Enjoyed it very much.

3. Respectabiggle - 02/05/2013 1:48 pm EST

The real-life tough guys I've known have been almost entirely cheerful and well-adjusted. Even the crazy ones are usually crazy in a way that makes them fun to be around. Of course, most of them have been Navy types, which may give a greater sense of not taking yourself too seriously.

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