Friday, September 14, 2018
Book Review: 'The Count of Carolina (A Clean Up Crew Thriller Book 2)' 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 THE BEAUTY OF BUCHAREST the initial novel of The Clean Up Crew Thrillers. Now he offers THE COUNT OF CAROLINA as the second installment in this new series. 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 – ‘“Dan and Nicole Porter were two weeks shy of their twenty-first wedding anniversary. As he looked over at her now in their huge, comfortable bed on a lovely Colorado springtime early morning, he smiled. It had been four months since Dan had learned that his beautiful wife, ten years his junior, had kept a huge part of her life secret from him. Nicole, Dan had thought, was an executive in a company called Cleanup Crew. He’d been told for twenty years that the company was a forensic cleaning service, going into crime scenes and messy suicides after the police finished their work and removing all trace of the crime. Blood and gore, yes, but it was a necessary service, and Dan had thought Nicole, having risen through the ranks to management at a very rapid pace, was insulated from the worst of it. Front office, not front lines, he had told himself many times over the years. But Cleanup Crew, while maintaining offices all over the world that did actually provide the forensic cleaning service, also had a separate arm, which provided a different kind of cleaning. For they also used that term with regard to disinfecting the world of human filth that they did via assassination. The company accepted assignments from a wide variety of sources. Some were official. (Or semi-official, Dan thought, remembering that many governments often reached out for help with situations that could not be formally connected to the authorities.) Some, however, fell outside the scope of governments and monarchies, and dealt with very personal, very heinous situations, such as the one that put Nicole’s hidden world onto Dan’s radar.’
The synopsis distills the mystery well – ‘Four months after returning from a mission in Bucharest, international assassin Nicole Porter is itching for a new assignment. But since revealing her secret life to her husband, Dan, Nicole has been plagued by nightmares of her past. In a twist of fate, the assignment she is offered will take her right back to her childhood home in South Carolina, where her past was a nightmare. All bets are off when Dan and Nicole’s daughter is kidnapped, and Nicole quickly realizes her assignment and the abduction of her daughter are related. As Nicole and Dan arrive in Greenville, she soon realizes that at the heart of everything she’s dealing with is none other than Conrad Barker, a man she has been hunting for over twenty years.
A strong new direction from a strong new author. This is another fast reading escape from the chaos of today’s messy world. Grady Harp, September 18
This book is free to borrow from Kindle Unlimited.
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.