Thursday, May 31, 2018

Book Review: 'The Beauty of Bucharest' by S.J. Varengo

New York author S.J. Varengo attended Fordham University and State University of New York earning a bachelor's degree in Art History. He has written a volume of short fiction WELCOME HOME, the Cerah of Quadar series of which A DARK CLOCK is volume 1, and now THE BEAUTY OF BUCHAREST. He has also co-written several installments of the SpyCo espionage thriller series with Craig A. Hart.

Varengo has demonstrated his expertise in his works with Craig A. Hart – one of today’s master thriller writers – and he uses his skills well in penning this own terrifying thriller mystery in this solid book. One of the many aspects that make this book significant is his use painting an atmosphere on which to place his well-drawn characters – a fine mixture of drama and strange personality changes that heighten the suspense of this particular story.

Varengo establishes his lead characters on the first page of his story – ‘“I’ll just pull up front and drop you off,” Dan told his wife. “It’s raining and you’re too sweet to get wet. You’ll melt.” It was early December in Denver and by all rights it should have been snowing. But a freak warm front had kept the temperature in the forties for the past several days and when the precipitation came, it did so in the form of a drenching rain. Nicole smiled at his cheesy sentiment. “You weren’t worrying about me being wet when you joined me in the shower this morning,” she said, her voice husky and teasing. Dan looked at his drop-dead gorgeous wife and wondered, probably for the ten-millionth time, what he’d done right to win her. The best explanation he’d ever heard was from a Buddhist friend who’d said he’d probably stored up a bunch of karma points in previous lifetimes. He pulled Nicole’s Lexus into the fire zone in front of The Home Depot and stopped as close to the overhang as he could get. “Thanks, honey,” Nicole said. She blew him a kiss, then jumped out and ran into the store. Dan watched her all the way through the door, grinning as he marveled at her perfect body, as well-formed at 41 as it had been when he’d first met her at 21, then looked for a parking space. Must be a big sale on nuts and bolts, he thought, seeing that the closest vacant space was three-quarters of the way to the other end of the lot. Dan Porter loved retirement. He knew he loved it, because at least three times a day, he said, “I love being retired.” He said it that often, of course, because he was trying to convince himself that it was the truth.’ And then comes the discovery that opens the caper.

The synopsis distills the mystery well – ‘What would you do if you found a body in the trunk of your wife’s car? This is the question facing Dan Porter as he stood in the parking lot and looked down at a man wrapped in clear plastic sheeting…a man with a tidy .38 bullet hole in his forehead. But finding the body is a mere curiosity compared with the twists and turns Dan’s life will take over the next few days. International intrigue and edge-of-your-seat action abound as Dan and his lovely wife Nicole—who clearly has more than her share of dark secrets—risk their lives to rescue a stunning model and bring down one of the most evil men either of them have had the misfortune to meet.’

A strong new direction from a strong new author. This is a fast reading escape from the chaos of today’s messy world. Grady Harp, May 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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