Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Book Review: The Dragonslayers, Volume One by Matthew Maynard

Scott Phillipson's life changes dramatically when his parents are suddenly murdered in a drug raid gone wrong. (Wrong not only because the trigger-happy police officers overreacted, but also because they shouldn't have been there in the first place. A clerical error sent the raid to the wrong house.)

While the government drags its feet on the subject of taking responsibility and making amends for the wrongful deaths, Scott struggles to make ends meet. And when his pizza delivery job puts him in a position to become a courier for the local arm of a drug cartel, it's an opportunity that he can hardly pass up.

The legal vs. moral question in the war on drugs (particularly when it comes to marijuana) gets even more complicated when Scott connects with Dr. Romano, an oncologist who has recently discovered that a medical treatment derived from the marijuana plant might actually be able to extend her patient's life.

Regardless of any logical arguments that Scott may have for being involved with drugs, he cannot escape the fact that it is an incredibly dangerous business. Pursued on one side by a drug cartel, and on the other side by the relentless (and somewhat less than ethical) Officer Cavanaugh, he is kept on his toes - and often running for his life.

This is Maynard's first novel, in a genre that he has dubbed "liberty fiction," and I think it was an excellent debut. It is fairly fast-paced and has plenty of gripping action to keep the story going, but there are enough other elements to the story that it is more than just a typical action/thriller. There are traces of love story, and medical drama, and just a bit of a stab at religious hypocrisy, all mixed with a brutally critical look at the world of law enforcement and the war on drugs.

The only problem I had with the book was that it took me a little while before I could keep the multiple story lines sorted out. All of the characters were introduced within their separate stories before eventually all coming together and revealing how everything fit into place. This is a common literary technique, and there was nothing that the author necessarily did wrong. For me, this format just sometimes seems a little jumpy, and makes me work harder to keep up.

Other than that minor personal-preference issue, this was a great book, and I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the series.

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