by Dan Mayland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received for review from Amazon Vine
Dan Mayland’s sequel to The Colonel’s Mistake, The Leveling ( Thomas & Mercer 2013) is a worthy follow-up. The plot follow a favorite thread of mine–spy/agent/SEAL struggles to start over as a professor/shop keeper/loving mate, only to be wrenched back into the treachery of his former life by forces beyond his control. In this case Mark Sava is a CIA agent-turned-professor living in the questionable city of Baku, Azerbaijan. He thinks he’s done it–remade himself complete with serious girlfriend ignorant of his past, non-CIA friends, and memories that don’t include blood and butchery.
Until fate intervenes and he is thrown out of his adopted country about the same time John Decker, a friend from his spy days, goes missing, presumably kidnapped. No one is trying to find Decker so Sava teams up with another ex-CIA operative to find him.
The plot isn’t terribly original. What makes this a five-star read is how Mayland writes–the plot twists, character development, and setting knowledge that no one short of a man who’s lived that part of the world in too-close relief would know. Tell me that you don’t see exactly what Mayland wants you to with this perfect collection of words:
“Beyond the windows, daily life in the city of Baku played like a silent film [through soundproof windows]. A dirty minibus belching diesel fumes and packed with people lurched by. An old man in a three-piece suit slowly painted the trunk of a sidewalk tree white. A lady in high heels and a miniskirt chatted on a cell phone while a withered Gypsy woman in bright clothes swept the street.”
What a masterful job of building Mark Sava’s character–caring, intelligent, ex-CIA so notices everything, empathetic for the world he inhabits. Or how about this:
He thought about how Buddhist monks would spend days constructing an intricate sand painting, only to destroy it right after they’d finished. The exercise allegedly helped them embrace impermanence. Which was exactly what he needed to do.
This description shows up on page 51. Tell me you can resist a character who knows how Buddhist monks train?
One detractor: Lots of flashbacks, early in the book. Mayland makes them work because they aren’t narrative and reflective. They’re action-packed and pithy. I can handle that.
Overall, if you’re crunched for time over the summer, this is not the book you want to skip.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a weekly columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.