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Book Author: James Byrne

DEADLOCK by James Byrne: Book Review

Barely a year after his debut mystery featuring Desmond Aloysius Limerick, James Byrne has written a second novel as outstanding as his first.  I had nothing but praise for The Gatekeeper, a novel that introduced Dez to the world last June, and I was more than ready for the follow-up to his first adventure.  Deadlock does not disappoint.

Dez’s resume is a bit mysterious, but it does include a degree in engineering, an incredible ability to hack into nearly every secure facility in the world, and the talent to play electric guitar in both jazz and blues bands.  His skill in entering buildings (breaking into may be the more accurate description) is one that he employs numerous times in Deadlock.

Thinking he would like a brief holiday in the United States, Dez leaves England and has just spent his first day in Los Angeles when he receives a phone call from Raziah Swann, a young musician/songwriter he has worked with.  When she tells him that her sister Laleh is in danger and is in a hospital, he’s on the next flight to Portland, Oregon.

Raziah tells Dez that her sister’s apartment was ransacked and a day after that she was mugged and almost killed.  The two go to the hospital, and Dez immediately spots two men who are waiting for Raziah.  He dispatches them without any trouble as well as two others who are inside Laleh’s room, apparently ready to abduct her.

When he puts the last thug out of commission with a Thai boxing move, he looks over the man and thinks, he has “heard the expression you should never hit a man when he’s down.  Stupid advice, that.  There’s no better time to hit a man than when he’s down.”  (Italics mine.)

Laleh insists that she doesn’t know why anyone would attack her.  She’s a business reporter, she tells the police and Dez, not an investigative journalist, and the only story she’s working on at the moment is a profile of a forensic accountant who was murdered a couple of days before she was attacked.  She’s sure there’s no connection, but Dez has his own opinion.

The accountant who was killed was doing an audit on Oregon’s largest and most influential employer, Clockjack Solutions.  The company was started three decades earlier by four Portland State University professors, but two have died.  To Dez it seems unlikely, to say the least, that two of the four entrepreneurs died at such young ages.  And now there have been two recent attacks related, if peripherally, to the company–the accountant and Laleh.

I must confess I was eagerly awaiting every “spot of trouble,” as the Brits put it, that Dez got into so that I could marvel at the way he got out of each one.  James Byrne has created a skilled, funny, personable character with whom I loved spending the afternoon.  Dez is surrounded by a wonderful cast of characters–good, bad, and truly evil–but there’s no doubt that he is the star.

James Byrne is the pen name of a man who has worked as a journalist and in politics for more than two decades.  You can read about him at various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.





THE GATEKEEPER by James Byrne: Book Review

Desmond Aloysius Limerick–a cross between Jack Reacher and Orphan X.  

Six months before the main story opens, Dez is in Algeria, keeping lookout over fourteen people who have invaded the compound of Djamel M’Bolhi, criminal extraordinaire.  As the small groups under Dez’s control exit the compound with the materials they went in for, each wants to leave the area as soon as possible.

But Dez is counting, and he’s not leaving until all fourteen are safely outside.  Not until the last one, the only woman in the group, comes out does he give the order for everyone to withdraw; that’s why he’s the gatekeeper.  And then it’s on to California for his next adventure.

Six months later, Dez is going to his Los Angeles hotel room after playing bass guitar in a small combo.  In the elevator with him is a woman he recognizes from the club’s audience, along with two men whom he instantly pegs as bodyguards.  She presses the button for the floor one higher than his and compliments his playing.

Dez asks her out for a drink, although he thinks she is twenty thousand leagues out of my league, so he’s not surprised and only a little disappointed when she turns him down politely with a smile.

A few minutes later he’s standing at his window when he glimpses a man on an adjoining roof holding a shotgun.  Then a black van pulls up in front of the hotel, and four men get out of it and move into the lobby.  Dez thinks that there probably is a connection between a man with a gun, the four tough-looking men, and the woman in the elevator and her bodyguards.  When he tries to reach the hotel’s front desk and gets no signal on the landline and then no signal on his cell, he knows the woman is in trouble.

Leaving his room, he sees an old-fashioned fire alarm glass box in the corridor with a fire ax inside.  Weaponless, he breaks the glass with an elbow. but the break doesn’t trigger an alarm.  The five men are obviously professionals and have disrupted all the communications within the building, Dez thinks, as he grabs the ax and heads up the staircase.

Readers never learn exactly who Dez is and how he acquired the skills he has.  He’s very knowledgeable about computers and weapons and apparently has lived in many countries, but other than that his background is hazy.  But it’s obvious he has amazing skills in many areas.

James Byrne’s debut mystery is outstanding.  His own identity is somewhat of a mystery, as James Byrne is the pseudonym of a west coast journalist.  He has created both a remarkable protagonist and an edge-of-your-seat plot.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.