The Dealer – CHERUB #2

The Dealer

Author: Robert Muchamore

Publication: Simon Pulse, 2004

Pages: 336

Overall Rating:   bth_35_zps7a173504[1]                     

Rating for Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Quantity of Action:  bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Age Category:  13+

Brief Summary: James and his friends are assigned to befriend the children of a major international drug dealer named Keith Moore.  Previous efforts to bring down Moore’s gang have failed due to wide-spread police corruption.  CHERUB is called in as a way to infiltrate his gang without involving the police or raising suspicion among Moore and his colleagues.

James befriends Moore’s son, Junior.    Much to his surprise, he discovers that he really likes hanging out with Junior.  Together, they join Keith’s boxing club, and even begin making drug deliveries for him.  As the mission unfolds, James ultimately finds himself on the way to Miami, as a guest at Moore’s beachside vacation home.  The story reaches a climax when masked gunmen burst into the house, and James is forced to fight for his life.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: As with The Recruit, Muchamore does a good job with character development and spinning out the relationships between James and his friends.   He manages to neatly combine the everyday fun and games that James and Junior get into with the details of an undercover investigation.  And Muchamore always seems spot on with his information about the drug trade, British intelligence, and the police.

There comes a point maybe two thirds of the way through the book when you think the case is all wrapped up and you don’t know how the book can go on. Then Muchamore gives the story a little twist, and suddenly you realize the case is far from over.  It was a nice touch, a way to take what could have been a straightforward story about bringing down a drug kingpin and make it much more interesting.  Muchamore even does a good job of humanizing Keith Moore,  helping James to see him as a loving father, which made the whole case far more interesting for me.

What I Liked the Least: The book still lacks emotional depth, and James is often as lazy and self-centered as ever.  Another real problem for me was that James takes a very casual attitude towards his role as a drug dealer.  He sees it primarily as something cool, fun even, and a good way to earn extra pocket money.  He doesn’t have any ethical misgivings about what he’s doing.  He doesn’t hate himself for it.  The whole things come off as feeling more like a game to him – a game in which he makes some money.

How Good was the Action?  As with The Recruit, this book is primarily about intelligence gathering.  The majority of the book is about James and his companions making friends with the children of Keith Moore and using those friendships as a way to gather information on his drug operation.  James and Junior join the same boxing club, deal drugs, and hang out together.  The book also follows snippets of the other agents and their friendships when and where those friendships lead to information about Moore.  Outright action is somewhat rare.

That said, the book ends with a definite bang when James has to confront a band of armed thugs and ultimately kills one of them.  The action, where it occurs, is top notch and the tension in those moments is real.  There were only two things that bothered me about it:  one, there is a scene in which James drives a Range Rover quite skillfully despite the fact that he’s 12 and, so far as we know, has never been behind the wheel of a car.  Two, James had a little too much adult help in the final confrontation.

How Engaging was the Story?   For me, the continued lack of emotion stops the story from being as engaging as it could be.  However, the relationships, both between the CHERUB agents themselves and between James and Junior, still makes for a fun and reasonably engaging read.  In this book, James is beginning to tread the waters of a possible relationship with fellow agent Kerry, and it was cool to watch that develop.

The mission itself was also especially engaging, following how the agents used their friendships with Moore’s children to worm their way into his drug empire and gather vital information to pass on to their mission controllers.

Overall Assessment: This is a fun read.  It’s not heavy on the action, but the action scenes it does have are well done.  In general, it’s probably a far more realistic look at what a group of teen and pre-teen spies would do than Alex Rider – though that doesn’t necessarily make it more fun and action packed than the Rider novels.  Overall, it’s got a decent story, well written relationships among the characters, and a few good action scenes, even if it does lack emotional depth.

Profanity: Some, but as with The Recruit it’s mostly British profanity

Sex: No, though there are some inappropriate sexual comments.   There’s also drug use.  Beyond the actual dealing, a few of the agents are caught using drugs during the mission.

Violence: Very little until the very end of the book when James comes across a dead body, witnesses a beating, and shoots someone.

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