Tour de force is a term that is overused in describing thrillers, but I think it’s an apt description of Deadlock.
Emily Hudson is an archaeologist hired by the UN to protect various artifacts that are in danger of destruction. She finds herself in Afghanistan with her best friend and colleague, Joel Levy, when they are ambushed by people who are looking for one artifact in particular, and will stop at nothing to get it. Emily and Joel are held hostage, tortured to reveal the location of Zelov’s hammer — something neither of them knows about.
The CIA turns to John Garrett to rescue Emily and Joel. Garrett has worked for the CIA before, and has bad memories of the experience. But he’s Emily and Joel’s only hope of survival.
That’s the way the back of my copy of the book presents the plot. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t do it justice (and I’ve noticed that the summary is done better in the final, hardback editions). Joel is tortured endlessly to make Emily talk. By the time Garrett arrives for the rescue (only about 30 pages in), Joel is dead, and Emily blames herself. Much of the book involves Emily healing from her captivity, and plotting her revenge on the man who held them both, and was responsible for Joel’s death – a man named Staunton.
The characters are fairly stock — Garrett is the soldier of fortune/smuggler that does good things to offset the bad that he’s done. Emily is the tortured victim seeking revenge. Garrett’s friend Irana is the guardian angel who never fights, but is always there to support those who fight for a good cause. There’s also the socially inept hacker who longs for adventure, the devoted friend and confidante, the evil-incarnate villain, and several well-meaning dupes. Of course, Emily and Garrett fall for each other, and come to rely on each other. The characters are interesting in their own way, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking here.
Deadlock is plot driven, plain and simple. The pacing is outstanding; there are long stretches that are so action packed that you won’t be able to stop reading. And there are enough twists, especially toward the end, that even if you think you know what’s going on, you won’t really know for sure until the end — and even then, there are still some questions left unanswered. Johansen has created an outstanding thrill-ride with Deadlock — get this one soon.