Serenity in Name Only

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 14, 2008, 10:59 a.m.

By Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)

Shelby Alexander barely lets the reader take a breath in this opening salvo of Craig A. Hart’s series of thrillers. Serenity is not to be confused with the noun. It’s the name of the town in northern Michigan that, based on the hero’s experience, is hardly apt.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover)

Hart writes my kind of books. I wasn’t ten pages in before the hero started reminding me of Hal Kinley, the flawed counterbalance of evil in my political thriller, Forgive Us Our Trespasses. Hal plays second fiddle to the despicable Denny Frawley, a politician headed to the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion regardless of how many he has to kill and imprison in order to get there.

Hart’s protagonist figuratively plays lead guitar. He is at the center of every spine-tingling scene, and someone is out to kill him in most of them.

Shelby is a tough guy, an ex-boxer who who has been involved in his share of tawdry business. Fate puts him in harm’s way … constantly. He allows himself to be drawn into a territorial war between meth dealers, or at least that’s the way it seems. It’s hard to see the truth because the bad guys keep dying while they are enthusiastically attempting to kill him.

Serenity – the town, that is – has a new sheriff who is either awfully naive or terribly crooked. Shelby has a girlfriend, a honky-tonk angel, who is half his age. He has a meddling daughter determined to patch up relations between Shelby and his former wife, her mother. A friend, retired from the Detroit police force, comes in handy.

Hart’s yarn affords precious little time to relax. Someone is trying to kill Shelby most every time he stops moving. Hart has crafted a hero capable of carrying many more installments, provided he can manage to survive the perpetual action. I expect he will. His is a valuable franchise.

(Steven Novak cover

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