Sure Fire

Sure Fire

Author: Jack Higgins and Justin Richards

Publication: 2006, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 256

Overall Rating:  bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  Rich and Jade are twins.  Their mother was killed in an accident and now they’ve been placed in the care of their father – a man they know nothing about, and who until recently had no idea they even existed.  Their father, John Chance, makes little effort to integrate them into his life.  From the start he tells them that his job is very demanding.  He’s at a critical point in his work, and he can’t afford to spend time looking after them.  He’s planning to ship them off to boarding school until the end of term, when his current project will come to an end and they can step back and get to know one another.  Rich and Jade are furious at the idea of being pawned off.

It doesn’t take long for Rich and Jade to start asking questions about who their father is and what he does.  He’s got a strange security device on his phone, gets letters addressed to some man named Harry Lessiter, and receives strange calls in the middle of the night.  So when they overhear Chance agreeing to meet someone at a scrap yard, they decide to follow him.  To their horror, Chance is kidnapped at gun point.  Soon after, they’re shot at and see a man killed right in front of their eyes.  They have no choice but to run.  Who is John Chance?  What does he have that’s so important people are willing to kill for it?  And with armed gunmen dogging their every move, will Jade and Rich survive long enough to discover the truth?

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: Higgins and Richards start off with a prologue that’s got plenty of action and explosions.  Then they relax the pace, giving us a chance to meet Jade and Richard, learn about the sudden death of their mother, and feel our way through their strange and complicated relationship with their new found father.  The authors do a good job of showing us the many reasons Rich and Jade have to distrust their father, and to follow him to his meeting at the scrap yard.  They also do a good job of driving home how close Rich and Jade are to one another, how tight their bond is.

Through most of the book, Rich and Jade don’t come off as super spies, but after getting over the initial shock of their situation they do make their way through a scary and unfamiliar world with some genuine ingenuity and aplomb.  They may not like what’s happening to them, but neither do they run from it.

What I Liked the Least: While Higgins and Richards do a good job of keeping Jade and Richard believable for the first two thirds of the book, that kind of falls apart towards the end.  Suddenly they’re stealing tanks and sneaking unarmed into a heavily guarded complex, fooling high tech security systems and punching and kicking their way to victory like a couple of highly trained martial artists.  Their attitude and ingenuity quickly go from believable to frankly absurd in their quest to rescue their father, and they seem to have skills never hinted at earlier in the book.  It makes for good action, and that’s fine, but it wasn’t particularly credible.

There were too many adults involved in helping them.  While Rich and Jade find plenty of ways to kick butt on their own towards the end, there are far too many situations throughout the book where they are rescued from certain death by the heroic and even suicidal efforts of highly trained adults – spies and ex-members of the SAS, who regularly draw their guns and jump into combat in order give Rich and Jade a chance to escape.  Again, this creates plenty of action, but I would have preferred having the action toned down just enough that Rich and Jade could have found ways to survive some of those encounters on their own.

One of the villain’s main henchmen, a man named Ryan Stabb, is supposed to come across as a threatening figure – someone to instill fear in the hearts of Rich and Jade and make us believe they can never survive.  Unfortunately, other than his name, Stabb doesn’t do a whole lot to make use afraid.  It feels like all bluster and no action, and in the end it only takes a couple of paragraphs for Rich, Jade, and Chance to get rid of him.  I was expecting a much more climactic ending than I got.

While Rich and Jade don’t know who to trust, as a reader I did, and that was unfortunate.  While most of the action takes place from Rich and Jade’s POV, the authors switch perspectives just enough that I generally knew whether the people courting Rich and Jade worked with their dad or against him.  I would have preferred to have that information kept secret until Rich and Jade discovered the truth for themselves.

How Good was the Action?  There’s a lot of action, and for the most part it’s fast paced and well written.  The authors do a good job of bringing the action up close and personal, with plenty of blow-by-blow details.  There are shootouts, explosions, kidnappings, and even a tank.  And there are plenty of situations where Chance and his kids have to fight or trick their way out of certain death.  On the down side, I never felt that drawn into the action.  While Higgins and Richards do a good job with the action itself, creating a very believable series of fist fights and shoot outs, they didn’t do such a great job of getting me in Rich and Jade’s heads during the fights.  I couldn’t feel the blood pumping through their bodies, the fear twisting in their hearts.  As a result, even the best action scenes fell a bit flat.

How Engaging was the Story?  Higgins and Richards definitely keep the story moving along at a good clip.  But once they’ve set up the basic relationship between Rich, Jade and their father, and woven in the back story that makes me believe Rich and Jade would follow him to the scrap yard, they don’t bother with a whole lot of emotional detail.  Whether that’s good or bad depends on who you are.  There were times I was left wanting more in terms of character development, but I did keep turning the pages and finished the book in short order.

Overall Assessment: This is a good beach read.  It’s got plenty of action, and after the initial set up there’s relatively minimal character development to get in the way of the chases, fights, and intrigue.  Of course, for that very reason the book feels light and easily forgettable.  With a bit more attention to character development, a bit more build-up of the villains, and a bit less shifting around with point of view, this could have been a great thriller. As it is, it’s fun but fairly middle of the road.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Yes.  People in this book get shot, punched, and kicked.  There are a lot of bullets flying.  But there’s fairly little blood and for the most part the action is not particularly graphic.

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