When one thinks of child labor abuses, what usually comes to mind is a vision of clothing manufacturing shops in Asia with five-year-olds sitting crosslegged at sewing machines for hours on end. However, in CHOKE POINT, Ridley Pearson deals with child labor abuses in Amsterdam. This is but one element that makes the second installment in the Risk Agent series so unusual and perhaps Pearson’s best effort to date.
"With CHOKE POINT, the Risk Agent series meets and exceeds the expectations set by the first volume. This is a great concept with the potential for enough interesting stories for as long as Pearson wants to keep them coming."
Rutherford Risk is an international security firm that is big enough to be a mini-power unto itself without having to deal with such nuisances as treaties or buttinskis like the UN. David Dulwich is a team leader --- think a younger Alexander Waverly (and if you get that reference without googling it, give yourself a gold star) --- who rides herd over a pair of semi-independent contractors, the team of John Knox and Grace Chu. Knox, who served under “Sarge” Dulwich in Iraq, possesses a skill set that includes the components of combat knowledge, cultural savvy, and sympathy for the downtrodden (more on that in a moment). Chu is a forensic accountant; if that were not enough, she also is highly skilled at ferreting out and acquiring sensitive information, in cyberspace and otherwise. The two complement and balance each other’s skills quite nicely, with Chu’s A to B to C style of acquiring knowledge tempering Knox’s off-the-cuff improvisational style.
CHOKE POINT gets jump-started when a journalist publishes an article that reveals the existence of a sweatshop that holds young girls in slavery as laborers; the rub is that the “knot shop,” as it is called, is located in Amsterdam. This is an interesting element, given that Amsterdam hosted a Child Labor Conference in 1997 where the heinous practice of child labor was roundly condemned. In CHOKE POINT, a concerned philanthropist quietly retains Rutherford Risk to locate the off-the-radar site of the knot shop and shut it down, and with extreme prejudice. Knox has the right mindset for the job (see the above) and heads to Amsterdam with Chu to do what they do best.
However, their mission is beset with problems, not the least of which is that the crime organization that has ties to the knot shop has bought off everyone. And I do mean everyone, including the parents of the girls who are being held in involuntary servitude. How do you find someone who no one wants you to find, including those who should have the best interest of the victims at heart? And how do you trust anyone in that kind of environment? Knox and Chu attack the problem by sideloading it rather than meeting it head on, and achieve success in that regard, but locating the site is only part of the battle. How will they dismantle it, and exact a rough justice on the perpetrators and those who finance them and profit from them? These pages contain the fascinating and, at times, ingenious answers.
Pearson rarely disappoints, and his latest output keeps a strong streak intact. With CHOKE POINT, the Risk Agent series meets and exceeds the expectations set by the first volume. This is a great concept with the potential for enough interesting stories for as long as Pearson wants to keep them coming. That hopefully will extend well into the foreseeable future.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 28, 2013