The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 26, 2009

Book review: Surprise ending caps fast-paced ‘Blue Zone’

‘The Blue Zone’

By Andrew Gross

(compact disc audiobook)

Kate Raab leads a perfect life. She is smart and beautiful, has a boyfriend named Greg, a close-knit family and she enjoys her job as a medical researcher at a New York lab. Her father, Benjamin Raab, runs a very successful diamond and gold business in New York; the family — Raab’s wife, Sharon, and Kate and her younger brother and sister — has always led an extremely comfortable existence. However, everything changes when the FBI arrests Raab for conspiracy and money laundering for a Colombian drug cartel.

The sound of gunshots peppering their house startles the family on the evening that Benjamin Raab is released from jail. Raab decides to place himself and his family in the Witness Protection Program (WITSEC). The family members receive new identities and are relocated to the West Coast — with the exception of Kate. Kate and Greg are about to marry; consequently Kate insists on continuing with her life in New York.

Kate does not believe the charges leveled against her father and vows to clear his name and get to the truth. She becomes increasingly distrustful of the protection provided to her family and she begins to wonder if she can trust anyone, even Greg. When a co-worker gets shot, Kate is sure the bullet was intended for her. Kate is panic-stricken when her father disappears from WITSEC and his case agent is murdered. He is in the “blue zone,” the FBI’s name for the point where he no longer has contact with the program. His identity may have been exposed and he could even be dead. In her pursuit of the truth, Kate uncovers disturbing secrets that connect her family to the Mercado drug cartel in Colombia.

This fast-paced, intense thriller contains twists and turns that keep you guessing to the surprise ending. Ilyana Kadushin provides a fine narration of the audiobook. The author, Andrew Gross, has co-authored novels with James Patterson but this was his solo debut, which was published in 2007. I cannot compare their writing styles having never read any of Patterson’s novels. However, I am eager to read “The Dark Tide” and, “Don’t Look Twice,” novels Gross has written since the publication of “The Blue Zone.”

‘Gold of Kings’

By T. Davis Bunn

(compact disc audiobook)

Sean Syrrell, a dealer in rare antiquities, dies from an apparent heart attack soon after firing his granddaughter, Storm, from his business. Storm almost immediately learns that her grandfather left the business in grim financial straits. She is also surprised and saddened to learn that her grandfather did not mention her in his will.

Harry Bennett, a treasure hunter, was in a Barbados prison for illegal treasure hunting when he was suddenly released. Before his death, Sean had arranged for Harry’s release from prison with the instructions that Harry is to protect Storm from danger. Harry and Storm conclude that her grandfather was likely murdered, but fortunately, not all of his secrets follow him to the grave. Storm discovers some interesting items in Sean’s safe including a frayed leather journal.

Following clues from the journal, Storm and Harry embark on a treasure hunt, and federal agent Emma Webb soon joins them. Emma has been working on uncovering secrets between the world of treasure hunting and the antiquities and art houses. The quest for ancient treasure from Herod the Great’s Second Temple in Jerusalem sends the trio to London, France, Istanbul and Cyprus while thwarting several attempts on their lives.

Bunn’s thriller has it all — believable characters, numerous adventures, historical archaeology and mysterious murders — with a little romance tossed in the mix. The descriptive historical background about the places they traveled and the treasure they hunted added to the action-packed plot. Phil Gigante provides excellent narration for “Gold of Kings.”

Phyllis Seesengood is the technical services librarian at Joplin Public Library.