The Risk Agent novels, by Ridley Pearson

Recently I reviewed a couple of Ridley Pearson’s Lou Boldt novels, part of a continuing series I enjoy and watch for. I went on to try out another series of Pearson’s, the Risk Agent novels, which are very different stories, though equally well told. Though less to my taste.

The Risk Agent stories have two main characters. One is John Knox (interesting choice of name). John is a former commando, now running an import/export business. He makes good money, but he needs a lot of money, because his younger brother Tommie, whose guardian he is, suffers from an autistic-type disorder. Tommie functions well with good care, but such care is expensive. So John regularly takes side jobs with Rutherford Risk, an international private security firm. He was recruited as a risk agent by an old military friend.

The other main character is Grace Chu, formerly of the Chinese army. She is beautiful (of course), trained in martial arts, and a computer expert. She has a troubled relationship with her family, who do not approve of her career or her wish to marry a man of whom they do not approve.

John and Grace meet in The Risk Agent, in which they deal with a hostage situation in Shanghai. In an adventure they barely survive, they learn to like and trust each other, though they won’t admit to their mutual attraction.

In Choke Point they are sent to Amsterdam to deal with a child labor racket. And in The Red Room they are sent to Istanbul on a strange, off-the-books mission that makes no sense to them and leaves them on the run without support.

There’s an interesting character arc in the Risk Agent books. It’s not only the growing awareness of mutual attraction between the two main characters, but a hard fact about themselves that John already knows and Grace begins to learn. They are both adrenaline junkies, danger addicts. John tells himself he does his risk agent work for Tommie’s sake, but in his clearer moments he can see that his main motivation is his need to live as intensely as he did when he was in combat. If he gets himself killed, Tommie will be left all alone. And Grace discovers that she’s becoming exactly the same.

This intensity is the reason why, although I liked the Risk Agent books well enough, I still prefer the Lou Boldt stories. The level of stress achieved and maintained in these books is so cinematically high – and so generally unrelieved – that it kind of wore me out. I need a few breaks in my action stories, some down time and comic relief.

Still, I think the Risk Agent books will work very well for people who like their action poured straight. I can see them being turned into action movies, and very successful ones.

Cautions for the usual things – language, adult situations, and violence. But not bad by contemporary standards.

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