Dark Sky by Joel Canfield

I have never watched The Rifleman staring Chuck Connors.  I only know about it because I’ve seen the intro to the show that my grandmother watches.  I hear he’s pretty cutthroat and can shoot really well so I’d have to say I wouldn’t want him coming my direction.  However that is exactly what happens to the main character in the novel Dark Sky by Joel Canfield and it will leave you in shock but also laughing hysterically.  The novel deals with an ex-CIA agent who really was just on a desk job but appears to be the brains of the operations.  He left the CIA and his friend that still works there throws some government level private investigation stuff his way every so often but this case seems very different from the moment he gets it.  He soon realizes he is in something deep and while his pride won’t allow him to give up he contemplates it.  He is joined by an unlikely sidekick who is barely legal and full of testosterone.  Together they will make you cry in laughter.  The real question is can they stick through this operation or will they abandon it and if they don’t will they even survive it?

The most outstanding part of this book is the characters.  Of course my favorite is our main character Max Bowman.  He has a highly dysfunctional family including parents who regard him as dead and an ex-wife who managed to turn their kids against him and also took him for everything he owned.  Max is such a straight shooter and it’s what makes him so funny.  He tells everything exactly the way he sees it and has no regard for political correctness or profanity.  It may have been a serious or dangerous time in the book but that wouldn’t matter because Max tells it to us and we’ll laugh our way through it, even if someone else in the book gets shot and dies.  The fact that Max is also approaching senior citizen status is also what makes this book fun.  Max doesn’t even carry a gun knowing he’s going to a place that screams trouble because he might shoot himself first.  For perhaps any other main character to do this we’d think it was stupid but Max is smart and we know he’ll figure his way out of it even without the gun.  He is a great character and I’m happy to see this is the beginning of a series.  I will be happy to follow Max in his crazy journeys.

Flanking Max is two other phenomenal characters, his girlfriend Jules and his eighteen year old sidekick that he’s not sure he wants who we have come to know affectionately as PMA but his real name is Jeremey.  Let’s start with Jules…she is the perfect girlfriend for our main character Max.  He better never leave her.  She is a singer who can’t sing due to problems with her vocal chords.  But she’s anything but a proper lady; she cusses Max out with the best insults and we love every minute of it.  My favorite line is when Max isn’t sure he’s going to come out of this alive so he calls to tell her he loves her but he’s never actually said that to her before and she tailspins out of control.  I also enjoyed her insistent texting to Max after she has her vocal chord surgery and isn’t allowed to talk for a week or so…the cussing doesn’t stop because of that either.  Jeremey is the grandson of the General who is famous for his service and well respected and in actuality was the one who sent Max on his mission.  Jeremey believes in some New Age motivation thing that has three steps; power, mental, and action…Max calls bull on it and uses it to give him his nickname.  PMA saves the day a couple of times but mostly because he has some fighting skills (not always great but at least he has some) and can run faster than a fifty-eight year old.  He adds yet another layer of comedy to the duo and some muscle to the operation.

The plot was spectacular also.  It was very well thought out and although the reader will see the pieces coming together nicely there are plenty of surprises.  The book does deal with a military aspect of it and I was worried going in that it might go into a war book that I didn’t want to read but it didn’t.  I think I relate it best to watching an episode of NCIS; yes there are certainly military things happening but the book isn’t wrapped up in them.  It reads similar to other mystery or thriller novels with private investigators so the reader shouldn’t let that be a reason to let this one pass by.  While admittedly the themes will probably appeal more a guy, ladies will also enjoy this one as long as they can be ok with no political correctness and aren’t bothered by the occasional dozen cuss words.  The plot involves something of a conspiracy theory which gives it more of a thriller feel.  Even up through the falling action and resolution of the problem this book delivers action and surprise endings.

The story is very plausible and even sites several other stories we’ve heard about government cover ups and conspiracies.  The main character isn’t sure he can even trust his own friends as he moves through his case and he was right.  As he describes it; they are company guys and will do what they are told to do by the higher ups.  The was a real sense of paranoia of who was behind which attacks and how to remain alive in the book.  The feelings of the book came through excellently.  Nothing was outlandish and all the clues that were delivered help the reader see where the plot is going but the author adds more twists in like a bad guy who looks like Chuck Connors and acts like him too that will keep the reader from reading predictable and boring fiction.  The book was well edited and there were hardly any mistakes through it.  There were some places; mostly in dialogue, I thought were a little off but they read well in the dialogue…for instance the author writes in the thoughts of Max during the conversation he’s having and when there isn’t an assignment of dialogue to a person such as “Max said” afterwards it was hard to keep track of who was speaking.  This occurred infrequently throughout the book so it wasn’t a big deal.

In all, this is a really fun series with very memorable and endearing characters that I think match the likes of Janet Evanovich and Lee Child’s legendary sleuths and a fast paced plot full of action.  I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys thrillers and comedy together.  I really enjoyed meeting this cast and look forward to their next adventure.


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