by Daniel Judson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I picked Daniel Judson’s The Temporary Agent (Thomas & Mercer 2016) from NetGalley because of the vague similarities between the main character, ex-Seabee Tom Sexton, and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Tom’s a talented ex-military guy who chooses the life of a vagabond rather than use his prodigious warrior skills to build a lucrative career. We meet Tom as a blue-collar factory worker. During the day, he works his grindingly boring job; evenings, he spends with the woman he’s known only six months but long enough to fall in love with. Despite facts to the contrary, he seems content, seemingly in possession of everything he needs in life to be happy.
That all changes when he gets a call from an old military friend, one he promised over a decade ago he would answer should it come in. As Tom tries to help his friend, his goal remains what it has always been: to live a sedentary, private life. Dribbled in between Tom almost being killed and risking his life to save a woman he barely knows–certainly not enough to trust–Judson dribbles bits and pieces of Tom’s background that tell us much about this quiet, decisive man with an instinctive talent for survival:
“Fear had long since been conditioned out of him.”
“Men who mistook violence for adventure. Men who were just a little too eager to use their deadly skills.”
“For the first time in Tom’s life, he was about to intentionally step outside the law.”
The closer Tom gets to finding the man he’s hunting, the more the ground shifts beneath his feet, until Tom has no idea who he can trust and if the man who saved his life so long ago is trying to set him up.
Judson is a masterful storyteller, creating colorful descriptions that are as good as any I’ve read, underlying Tom’s emotions with an almost visceral need to stay away from the violent life of war and death. Though a thriller, the story is character-driven in the way the Jack Reacher series is, revolving around a man who is fiercely law-abiding as well as polite to those who deserve it and respectful of authority. Throughout the story, these traits shape his decisions, as he ends up back in a world he ran from, one inhabited by those who embrace violence, and ultimately struggles over whether to break the law or turn in someone he trusts–neither a solution he can live with.
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, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member forJournal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.