(An Aleksandr Talanov Thriller #2)
by James Houston Turner
Pub Date 25 Sep 2017
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Colonel Aleksandr Talanov – the “ice man” – is married to a woman he
wishes he could love. But he can’t, and it’s an ugly consequence of his
training with the KGB. Even so, no one should have to experience what
Talanov experiences: the brutal murder of his wife in front of his eyes.
Wracked with guilt and suspected of plotting her death, Talanov spirals downward on a path of self-destruction. He should have been killed, not her. He was the one whose violent past would not leave them alone. Months tick by and Talanov hits rock bottom on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he meets a hooker named Larisa, who drugs and robs him.
But in the seedy world of human trafficking ruled by the Russian mafia, Larisa made the mistake of stealing the ice man’s wallet. In it was Talanov’s sole possession of value: his wedding photo. Talanov tracks Larisa down to get that photo because it reminds him of everything that should have been but never was, and never would be because an assassin’s bullet had mistakenly killed his wife.
Or was it a mistake?
The answer lies in Greco’s Game, a chess match played in 1619 that is famous for its queen sacrifice and checkmate in only eight moves. In an unusual alliance, Talanov and Larisa team up to begin unraveling the mystery of what Talanov’s old KGB chess instructor regarded as the most brilliant example of how to trap and kill an opponent. The question is: who was the target?
Long ago, while working as a journalist at the famed Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission, I interviewed several young women who were victims of human trafficking. I barely knew such a horrific practice existed, but their stories opened my eyes to the reality of this monstrous crime. Having grown up in a family of strong, capable women, my books typically feature kick-ass females who pack as much punch as most men. With Larisa in Greco’s Game, I did something different. I created a strong, capable female lead who was understated and shy. Why? Because I witnessed that same kind of quiet, triumphant spirit in many of the women I met at the mission's women's shelter, Bethel Haven, as well as during my dozens of trips behind the old Iron Curtain as a smuggler. Greco’s Game is therefore a tribute to those quiet, heroic women.
Nevertheless, Greco's Game is unashamedly an action thriller. It is not a documentary about human trafficking. However, I believe action thrillers need more than nonstop action. It's the characters and their personal odysseys in the midst of the action that make us stand up and cheer, and that means some kind of love story, be it romantic or the bond between friends and family, and how those relationships are put at risk. That is what gives a book (or a film) the emotional 'grip' it needs. In Greco's Game, we see Talanov's wife murdered. We experience his agony and witness his downward spiral. We then see him discover the truth, that his wife was a sacrificial "pawn" in a deeper assassination plot. But why, and against whom, and by whom? We see him begin to unravel those mysteries, and just when the answer appears within reach, a shot rings out. We then see him faced with an impossible situation: does he go after the killer and avenge the dead, or does he stay and fight for the living, who lies dying in his arms? Greco's Game is a story of redemption for Talanov, but redemption at a cost.
“Don't start this book in an airport. You'll miss your plane.”
Samela Harris, News Ltd.
“Turner is King of the Cliffhanger.”
Glenda Shaw, two-time Emmy Award nominee
“Ludlumesque ... Talanov is a wonderful character.”
The Dallas Morning News
“Jason Bourne meets The DaVinci Code meets Tom Clancy.”
Los Angeles Magazine
Who Magazine (Time Inc)
“One of those searing cliffhanger books that simply defy you to put the thing down.”
“Pulsates on every page.”
The Sunday Mail
“Dark, sexy hero for the new millennium.”
National bestselling author, Jordan Dane
“Unlike any spy hero you’ve encountered before.”
“Starts fast and picks up speed!”
San Francisco Book Review
“Hits the ground running!”
“Emotional ... gritty ... a masterstroke!”
The Independent Review Site
“James Houston Turner is definitely one of our favorites!”
The Mystery Tribune