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Top Hook : A Book Review

A guest review of the mystery by Gordon Kent.

Yawn…In Top Hook, by Gordon Kent, the world is once again poised on the brink of war and only certain intrepid individuals can save it by ignoring all standard channels of behavior and rules. James Bond and George Smiley are ever so much better at this sort of thing than Alan Craik and Rose Siciliano, husband and wife naval commanders created by an unnamed father and son writing team. No wonder they remain anonymous.

Previously introduced in Peacemaker the two are now on their way to the CIA farm and astronaut training respectively. Suddenly their assignments are cancelled and Alan is not in Maryland but sent to a ship off the Italian coast and Rose relegated to a desk job. Rose has been accused of passing valuable information on the Peacemaker project to foreign sources.

Never fear- Alan and Rose are here. To clear her name and get back on the career track they marshal their forces by calling on every old friend who can help them. Some do it out of love for Rose and exhibit adolescent behavior in their quest for justice. One man tries to bed every woman he meets by offering to make squash gnocchi. His management technique consists of screaming invectives and profanity at anyone who questions his actions. Another is a one-eyed African–American former torture victim now millionaire consultant who has an Irish surname and has converted to Islam thus explaining why he speaks Arabic. These two and other assorted allies aid Alan in misappropriating government property as in fighter jets, armaments and secure international cell phones as well as a suitcase full of a million dollars in cash.

A mysterious woman meets with both Alan and the actual spy at various exotic places throughout the world. I suppose this was intended to give a flavor of authenticity to the tale but I found it unnecessary. Lots of motives were hinted at but never revealed. Indeed the spy who set up Rose has changing motivations throughout the story. Mere pages before the end he provides a totally different rationale for his behavior.

Rose is mentioned as a model wife and mother yet she fails to demonstrate any maternal feelings toward her two children. One is simply referred to as “the baby” and remains both nameless and genderless. Upon learning of the accusations against her she immediately launches into profanity and bemoans the effects on her career. Nothing is said about her children’s future.

Profanity pervades the entire novel to the extent that it takes away from the plot. Coming from a military background myself I know that such language is frowned upon. Such behavior is a poor example of leadership and reduces the speaker’s impact on others. When Rose laces her vocabulary with such language does she intend to sound like “one of the boys”? If so she contributes negatively to the view of the female soldier.

Don’t expect your questions to be answered nor all plot threads resolved in this tale. There are multiple references to the previous book and hints that all will be explained in the next. This is a cheap trick by the author hoping to boost sales. I for one don’t care about any of the characters and consider their behavior detrimental to the military. There is too much vulgarity in word and deed and too little character development. Patriotism is not as important as getting that promotion and basic decency is discarded in the race for that rank. As a military brat, wife and mother I found much of this offensive.


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