Narrator: Ben Smith
Publisher: Smoke & Steel Press (2017)
Length: 2 hours 53 minutes
Series: Book 1 A Jack Carson Story
Set in a small town in Iowa, the story opens with the mysterious Jack Carson, who goes by Jack York. He’s obviously on the run from something and the local bartender, Maizey, is the first to call him on it. There’s something very odd about Jack. The Feds are very interested in finding him, believing he has the answers concerning an exploded building. Jack is also searching for something, a girl in a photo he carries with him. However, his quest is waylaid as he becomes entangled in the local illegal going-ons.
This was a fun story that reminded me of The Jack Reacher series but it has a touch of the fantastical since our Jack has some special, otherworldly abilities. The opening of the story requires some focus since the authors drop us directly into the middle of Jack’s life. We have to figure out that he’s on the run, what he’s on the run from, and what abilities he’s hiding. I was intrigued from the start and the tale held my attention all the way through.
Jack’s got quite a bit on his plate already, but he entangles himself with the local small town criminals when he defends the bartender Maizey in a little bar brawl. While this is a little cliched, it’s a useful plot device to suck our beleaguered hero into the local bad guy antics.
Mr. Hill runs most, if not all, of the town’s illegal activities and his two main henchmen take a decided interest in Jack. When they turn up rather injured, Mr. Hill makes it clear that Jack can either work for him or Mr. Hill will turn him into the Feds. So our Jack is hired on as muscle for Hill’s crew. That doesn’t go as expected, as you might imagine and Jack finds himself in an even tighter position. Now he has to decide whether to stand with the town against Mr. Hill and his crew, or flee from Iowa continuing to hide from the Feds.
There’s really only 3 female characters in this tale. There’s Maizey, who has a little mystery to her and is an interesting character. Then there’s a female Federal Agent hunting Jack who is continuously underestimated by her coworkers. She has potential but has very little time in this story. Then there’s the girl in the picture. She’s basically a place holder now. We don’t know if she’s a grown woman or an actual girl, we don’t have her name, and we don’t really know why Jack is searching for her (though I have this impression he wants to protect her). So I would have liked a better gender balance with the characters since there are plenty of male characters in this story.
The action and the twists and turns of the story were well done. They are well interspersed among quieter moments in Jack’s life, many of which were his various chats with Maizey. By the end, some things are resolved but other things are left hanging. It’s not until near the end that we learn it was a science lab that was destroyed but since that’s in the book’s description, I don’t mind mentioning it in this review. This mysterious girl in the photo is still a big question mark. The source of Jack’s special abilities and his limitations are also big question marks. While there’s plenty to build upon here in future books, I would have liked a bit more info on Jack’s personal quest to find this mystery girl.
All in all, it’s an entertaining listen and a solid start to a new action-packed series. I really like this little twist of Jack’s special powers. I look forward to learning more about his past.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Ben Smith was pretty good for this book. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. He did speak a bit fast but with the Audible app, I could slow it down and it sounded normal. Occasionally, there were a few mouth noises and at least once, he repeated a short sentence. He did a really good job with the various emotions the characters had.
What I Liked: The lovely cover art; Jack’s troubles – all of them piling on him; Maizey isn’t your typical bar tender; Mr. Hill makes a great villain to hate on; the various mysteries surrounding Jack; the Feds hunting Jack; how Jack leaves the town.
What I Disliked: Could have used more female characters; could have used a few more loose ends tied up.