Here is a book that I really wanted to like. Gary Beck’s style is enjoyable and easy to read. His characters are distinct, and his premise offers huge potential. Sadly, none of these promising beginnings pay off, with the book reading like a latter draft than a final product.
Sudden Conflicts centres around TJ, Clar and Pete, three best friends who share their personal and professional lives as they finish their PhDs and develop cyber-security software which lands them in the middle of a deadly international threat.
The point of view is all over the place. For the most part, the story is told in first person by Pete and yet, inexplicably, he seems to know the thoughts and motivations of other characters too. Later in the book, the point of view begins to stray between the first-person narrative and an omnipresent perspective to let us peek into the life of another character. It’s inconsistent and nonsensical. Furthermore, with Pete being a cyber-security expert, there is a distinct lack of technical detail. Such experts should demonstrate their knowledge far more than what is provided.
The personalities of Beck’s three main characters are nicely realised but their responses to situations are far from believable. There’s no depth of emotion, they regularly jump to the right conclusions, they fail to have any real emotional reaction to becoming targets for assassination and, as young college graduates, they seem to plot murder and revenge as though they took tertiary classes on both subjects.
The supporting characters fare far worse, with both police and FBI agents behaving like incompetent, petulant children rather than the adults they are, not to mention the professionals they’re supposed to be. Investors and villains alike fit the mould of 2D cut-outs.
The action is bogged down by the minute details of the character’s daily lives which have no relevance to anything of significance. Beck’s attempts to flesh out the main relationships fails to tie any of it into the primary story. Then, in a complete flip, we get nothing for the finale. The drama of Sudden Conflicts builds to a grand setup of the three protagonists acting as bait for the FBI to capture the villain. Beck builds the anticipation then crushes all hope by cancelling the showdown and offering a brief phone call where the FBI lets our heroes know that the bad guy has been arrested. When it comes to a payoff, Sudden Conflicts offers the most anti-climactic ending I can ever recall reading.
If you enjoy a light read which you won’t think about, then Sudden Conflicts will kill some time. Just a moment of consideration is all it takes however, to realise it needs a lot more development to reach its obvious potential. It has the makings of an exciting thriller, but only after a few more major rewrites.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 4
Released by: Lillicat Publishers
Release Date: April 2017
RRP: US$15.95 paperback, US$3.22 eBook