If you haven’t treated yourself to one of John Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave thrillers, you need not deprive yourself any longer. DAMAGE CONTROL, the latest installment in the series, has just been published, and I solemnly assure you that you have absolutely nothing better to do than to read this book now, whether you are on the beach while vacationing or at work.
"If you haven’t treated yourself to one of John Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave thrillers, you need not deprive yourself any longer. DAMAGE CONTROL, the latest installment in the series, has just been published, and I solemnly assure you that you have absolutely nothing better to do than to read this book now, whether you are on the beach while vacationing or at work."
While all of the Grave books have been riveting reads, DAMAGE CONTROL is by far the best of the lot. Part of the reason for this is the book’s opening chapters, whereby Grave and the stalwart Brian Van de Meulebroeke (that’s Boxers to you) are in the heart of a Mexican jungle doing what they do best: hostage release. The hostages are a group of American children who have been kidnapped from Ciudad Juarez while participating in one of those church mission expeditions, which always make me nervous when I hear about them. The kidnappers are members of a drug cartel and are holding the kids for ransom.
Now right here is where Gilstrap does well: Grave’s mission isn’t to bust in and murder all of the drug cartel members and take the kids home, and spend 300 pages doing so. That would be a great book, true; but Gilstrap writes an even better one. All that Grave and Boxers have to do is drop off three million dollars to the kidnappers, get the little ones, and go home. Over by page 12, right? Not really. Everything that can possibly go wrong with the mission does go wrong, and horribly so. I literally jumped out of the chair screaming “NO!” when things went wrong. By the time the dust settles and the smoke clears, the mission is almost a total bust. There are bodies all over the place, and Grave and Boxers are far away from home, hamstrung with PC (read the book and find out what that stands for), the drug cartel, the Mexican government, and yes, United States law enforcement after them.
Grave and Boxers don’t have much, other than a whole lot of money, some very capable weaponry, and the folks back in the office to get them across more hostile real estate than they would care to think about. Think ANABASIS, but with much worse odds of success. Throw in a mystery --- there is a why as to the reason the mission was messed up, one that establishes, yet again, why no good deed goes unpunished --- and enough explosions, death traps and intrigue to fill three books, and you have DAMAGE CONTROL.
You have to love Gilstrap for getting it right. He carefully researches what he writes about, and not just with respect to the weaponry. Gilstrap also has the mindset of the parties, good and bad, down as well. Someone in Grave’s position can get out of it only one way: a foot at a time, which Grave and Boxers exhibit throughout the novel. Not even that may be enough to get them out of their situation. Will they make it? Or is this the last of the Jonathan Grave books? Read DAMAGE CONTROL and find out. Either way, you will not be sorry. And if you have any doubts, read those first 40 pages or so. Then try to stop.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 8, 2012