Tag Archives: Matthew FitzSimmons

‘Cold Harbor,’ by Matthew FitzSimmons

Cold Harbor

Matthew FitzSimmons’s Gibson Vaughn series of novels has generally been a pleasure to follow. The new third entry, Cold Harbor, is satisfying – more so than the previous book, Poisonfeather, which irked me a bit by ending with a cliffhanger.

When Cold Harbor begins, Vaughn, ex-marine and computer hacker, is finally set free from confinement, but he’s not quite ready. For eighteen months he’s been a “guest” of the CIA, and aside from being physically weaker, he’s now slightly insane. Ghosts out of his past appear to him and nag him to fulfill his duties, duties which pretty much contradict each other.

His first item of business is to get revenge on the CIA agent who kidnapped him – something he accomplishes, but which provides less satisfaction than he expected. His other priority is to reunite with his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife. But he comes to realize that would not be good for her.

Instead, an old friend shows up asking for his help in rescuing a mutual friend. That friend has been kidnapped by Cold Harbor, a sinister military contracting company. There’s only one chance to get the man free – a slim one – and it depends on cooperating with his greatest enemy in the world.

The writing in the Gibson Vaughn novels is very good, but the characterization is the most interesting part. Good and bad characters are textured and multi-leveled. We get to see Vaughn’s friends and enemies in their best and worst lights, and hard choices force him to make strange bedfellows. As a moralist, I suppose I should demand white and black hat stuff, but complexity, when applied to people, provides excellent moral exercise, in my view.

And this book doesn’t end in a cliff-hanger.

Recommended, with cautions for the usual.

‘Poisonfeather,’ by Matthew FitzSimmons

Poisonfeather

Gibson stopped him. “What do you think will happen now?”

The fisherman considered the question for a moment. “In Mandarin, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

“Is that true?”

The fisherman shook his head. “No, not exactly. It is just something that John F. Kennedy repeated because it sounded inspiring.”

I had read Matthew FitzSimmons’ The Short Drop, and enjoyed it. So I bought the sequel, Poisonfeather. But I’d forgotten what a really fine writer FitzSimmons is. Poisonfeather was a pleasure to read from front to back.

The villain this time out is Charles Merrick, a fallen Wall Street wizard (think Bernie Madoff but even nastier) now residing in a fairly cushy federal prison. He’s been in for eight years, and is due to be released soon. Many people were shocked at his short sentence, but there’s a secret explanation. Merrick knew the identity of a CIA mole working in China, which gave him leverage to do a deal with the feds.

Many people, some greedy, some Merrick’s victims, suspect he still has a lot of money squirreled away somewhere (they are correct). A large number have gathered in the moribund town of Niobe, where the prison is located, to intercept him when he goes free. Continue reading ‘Poisonfeather,’ by Matthew FitzSimmons

‘The Short Drop,’ by Matthew FitzSimmons

Matthew FitzSimmons is a new author, and he seems to have hit a home run with his first novel, a mystery/thriller entitled The Short Drop.

The story’s hero is Gibson Vaughn, a young man with world-class potential who’s the victim of his own indiscretions. Years ago he was briefly famous when he hacked into the computers of a prominent senator, Benjamin Lombard, uncovering evidence of malfeasance. The whole thing blew up on him when further investigation revealed that the actual author of the malfeasance was Gibson’s father, the senator’s chief aid. Gibson’s father committed suicide, and Gibson himself barely escaped prison when he was allowed to enlist in the marines. On leaving the service Gibson learned that the senator, now Vice President, has neither forgotten nor forgiven. In spite of his skills, Gibson is unhireable.

Then he gets an offer from a security company to do a short-term hacking job. In spite of his desperation, he almost says no, because the head of the company is a man who used to work for Sen. Lombard. He played a major role in prosecuting Gibson. But Gibson changes his mind when he learns the purpose of the investigation. They’re trying to find out what happened to Suzanne Lombard, the senator’s daughter. She was like a sister to Gibson, and she disappeared as a teenager while Gibson was in jail awaiting trial. He joins the team to work with a male/female pair of operatives, and gets involved more deeply than anybody planned.

The story that follows must have been a nightmare to outline. Surprise follows surprise, good guys and bad guys change places, people die unexpectedly, and the plot twists around like a politician’s principles. The tension never lets up.

Highly recommended, with the usual cautions.