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LOOKS @ BOOKS

I enjoy reading thrillers, mysteries, suspense and other novels that make my nerve ends tingle. At the same time, I don’t want to waste my time reading books that don’t promise the same level of excitement to my brain cells. So, the way I want to spend my reading time is with books that thrill, chill and fulfill. My choices range over a number of authors but I have focused on a single author for a lot of my reading during these difficult times. The novels by G. R. Daniels offer the excitement I want while contributing to a brain that needs absorbing plots, interesting characters and fascinating locales.

THE RUSSIAN CRISIS

Jackson Phillips is a former soldier, spy and diplomat who founded his own military software company based in Toronto. He retired – or thought he did until old friends showed up at his private island in Georgian Bay.

He is called back to his company to rescue it from Russian espionage agents and street thugs. There is a lot of action in The Russian Crisis along with riveting details about Toronto and the so-called cottage country north of the fourth largest city in North America in the world’s second-largest nation.I like the book for its thrills, hi-tech, strong characters and the all-round exciting plot. The Russian Crisis is followed by Crisis in the Cold, Doubled Down Deadly, Devil’s Chair and Undercover Crisis.

The story moves along at a good pace without sacrificing intriguing descriptions of Russian spying and high-tech surveillance. There is also a good amount of interesting information on Canada, Georgian Bay, Toronto, high technology and Russian espionage. The hero is a tough, older character backed up by admirable staffers and friends.

The Russian Crisis is a great foundation for a series that kept me on a reading binge through quite a few days and nights. It also kept me glued to the settings; I found these engrossing – and I live in Toronto!

The Russian Crisis. It’s a good read and should be the start of a whole series of good reads. The novels – and more by G. R. Daniels – are available at #amazonbooks and Amazon Books Canada.

Here is Chapter One of The Russian Crisis.

CHAPTER ONE

The long, sleek, sea kayak glided the last few yards to the dock of Shield Island, a dot of land in the clear waters of Georgian Bay. Jackson Phillips pulled himself out of the cramped cockpit and onto the wood planked dock. He smiled. Not bad, after a couple of hours on the water, paddling five kilometres. He hauled the boat onto a small sand beach next to the dock.

It was the end of July and the sand was blazing hot as it soaked up the bright sun that bathed the huge inland bay in early afternoon brightness. Jackson hurried across broiling sand and boulders. Climbing the wood steps to the porch of his cabin, he paused for a moment and took in the sight.

Jackson Phillips bought the island ten years before to ease his way into retirement with the vision of the home he and his wife would build. Now, the vision was real; the words ‘cabin’ or even ‘cottage’ didn’t begin to describe the 4,000 square foot place. It was much larger than the cottages on nearby islands or the immediate mainland a couple of football fields away from his two-year-old home. 

He had earned all he had with twenty years as a military officer, twenty more in Canada’s intelligence service and more than fifteen years as founder and CEO of Jackson Phillips Incorporated. He grew the company to be the largest provider of specialized software to militaries through the world.

The cost of his career was high. Jackson’s wife Laurel had died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack at 58 when Jackson was away in the Middle East as a member of a joint Canadian, American, British team planning security against terrorist bombers in Middle East conflict zones. He lived since with twinges of guilt and remorse for being away at the time of her passing.

The cabin was built using plans roughly drawn by Laurel and Jackson just before Jackson left for the Middle East assignment. It was a memorial of sorts, full of light just as she was and to the exacting design she demanded.

As a soldier, Jackson had risen to the rank of Brigadier General in the Canadian Army but his true prowess came from his position as a senior officer in JTF2, Joint Task Force 2. Within special forces ranks, Jackson Phillips was still a legend even if he was an ex-soldier these days.

 ‘Double pension dipping’ and savings gave Phillips the money to create a company to develop and sell software for use in the world’s riskiest military environments. Appropriately, the company was named Jackson Phillips Incorporated.

Corporate employees were on his mind as Jackson made his way into the luxurious cottage on his island – one among the so-called Thirty Thousand Islands of Georgian Bay in Canada’s province of Ontario.  He still felt that he had let down his staff when he had sold his company for hundreds of millions. He had thought it was time to leave his company to younger and smarter leaders.

JPI had been sold to a private equity firm that specialized in the military sector.  Cleanleaf Private Equity, a niche, rich firm, preferred JPI run its own affairs with a small board of directors and existing executives who chose to remain. All did stay, in the beginning.

The seven men and women in his core leadership team had each received millions in bonuses from the sale money.  Still, that had left Jackson with plenty for himself and a host of charities. He missed them.

Jackson bypassed his office off the entrance hall and went into the living space, revelling in the view through the windows that made up most of the western wall of the open area. He could look out over a strip of sand and rock into the shimmering water beyond. Jackson wandered into the kitchen section.

As he opened the door of the refrigerator to see what he could make for supper some hours away, Jackson heard an irritating noise from outside. The noise made it through the thick windows of the cottage so it must be loud. He thought it might be a neighbor in an outboard running into the bay to fish for pike and pickerel or, god forbid, a neighbor’s kid on a new jet ski.  He grabbed a beer by its skinny neck and headed out.

A boat was pulling into the beach next to the wooden dock. It was an open rowboat with a small motor on its stern. With the brilliant backlight it was hard to see the boaters. There was a big guy manning the motor and a smaller man in the bow. Both were dressed in suits and each wore a dark, plain tie.  Jackson thought they looked like undertakers. ‘How did they get this address,’ he muttered as he walked to the small sand beach next to his dock. 

“If you fellows are selling something you’ve got the wrong…” Jackson stopped at the waters’ edge and peered at the men.  “Is that you, Payne?”

The small man stood up but sat down quickly as the small boat rocked.  “Come on Jackson, help us out,” he shouted.  The big man fumbled with the engine controls and the motor sputtered and died.  The boat coasted into the dock, causing both men to lurch forward.

“Why can’t you live in some place that’s civilized,” the man named Payne shouted.  Jackson stepped into the water to catch the bow of the rowboat and pull it into the sand next to his kayak.

“Aw, Payne, you afraid of a little water? Come ashore.”

The smaller man stood up, clutching both sides of the boat and made his way gingerly to the bow and over the side onto the sand.  “Gees, this beach is hotter than hell.  I can feel it through my shoes.”

Jackson still stood in shallow water, soaking his flipflops and cooling his feet. “Who’s your friend, Payne?”

The big man left the stern of the boat and stepped over the gunwales into a few inches of water. He walked to the shore. His shoes got wet as did the cuffs of his black suit pants. 

 “Brownley,” the man said. “Bill,” he held out a hand to Jackson. They shook and Jackson was impressed by Brownley’s strength.

“What are you doing here,” Jackson asked of the man who used to be his Chief Financial Officer and was still counted one of his best friends. “Not that I’m not thrilled to see you but…”

“Sure, you are,” Payne replied ruefully eyeing the beer Jackson had set on the sand before pulling the boat ashore.  “Interrupting your boozing? Sorry about that, Jackson, but the crap has hit the revolving thing.”

“The sand is frying your brain; let’s go to the cottage.” Jackson turned on his heel and walked toward the structure.

“Cottage?” Brownley stood just inside the vast living area and looked around. “This place is a palace.”

Payne had been to Jackson’s home before but still marvelled at its size and views.

Phillips halted a few steps into the living area and turned toward the other men.

Payne looked more closely at his friend. Jackson was six feet tall without hint of the stoop of so many elderly men. Jackson wore a black Tee and jean shorts on a body that had aged well. But, as he scanned Jackson’s face, Payne saw changes.

Jackson had gone several days without shaving and his light beard was white like the thinning hair on his head. His mouth had definite lines. There was a lack of his typical sparkle in the light blue eyes and Payne could count several furrows across Jackson’s brow where, before, his forehead had been smooth.  His friend was still as handsome as ever with a sharp-featured look that blended power and compassion but some of his magnetism had diminished and that saddened Payne.

“You look like you bit on a lemon,” Jackson said with some anxiety.  He looked at Payne with an arched eyebrow. “Want a drink.” He included Brownley with a nod of his head to the big man now standing behind Payne. 

“Yeah,” Brownley said in a rumbling voice. His fleshy face remained expressionless.  “Thanks for asking, sir.”

“So, you’re at JPI?” Jackson turned his full attention to Brownley.  His tone was flat. His hands were still against his sides.

“William Brownley. I’m head of internal security at Jack… your former company.”

“Where is Starke?” asked Jackson.

“Retired,” Brownley replied. “Months ago.  I came in from Regal Security Partners.” Jackson knew that firm; it was a good one.

Jackson turned toward the kitchen area.  “Drinks.”

A few minutes later, without further talk, the three men were seated in comfortable leather chairs in a conversation pit focused on the large windows of the rear of the living room.  “Looks like a Group of Seven,” commented Payne as he sipped from a glass of scotch, referring to Canada’s famed artists who painted many works based on the waters and forests of Georgian Bay and Algonquin Park not far away.

RETURN TO MY WEBSITE

About Sandi Ralph

I am an artist living and working in Toronto. My work can be seen at Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada House Trafalgar Square, London U.K. I am a member of Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Open Studio, Toronto and Centre 3, Hamilton Ontario

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