Verdict: RED STICK TWO’s appealing main character, combined with rich descriptions and the realistic dialogue between Virgil and his partner, make it a great example of an action-filled novel that goes above and beyond to entertain its reader—even if you haven’t read the first installment in the series.
When a bad winter leaves Virgil Cleary’s cattle business on the brink of financial ruin and an old friend emerges with a potential payday, Virgil embarks on one final mission to save the family farm. Alongside South American expert, Richard “The Dick” Creole, Virgil must rescue an American engineer that’s being held hostage by “your typical rebel jerks”.
Kirkeby kicks off RED STICK TWO by establishing stakes and introducing Virgil’s unique skillset with a few chapters set on Virgil’s ranch, where a mountain lion is plaguing the local livestock. He and his son set out to deal with the cougar, and Virgil demonstrates his ability to track a quarry and remain calm under pressure. He’s a clever man—for example, when he and Creole are close to dehydration, Virgil captures and milks a goat to keep them going—and his unique dialect makes him easy to pick out in a conversation without being distracting. Virgil loves his country and his family, which makes him a character that’s easy to like.
RED STICK TWO really shines in its depiction of Southern American landscapes and culture. The Andean range is described as “jagged mountain tops thrust upwards like dragons teeth”, an “unfathomable collision of subocean and continent, an earth still at war with itself, endlessly rising and falling, shifting and sliding”. South American culture has them eating cwee (guinea pig) and the amount of foreign language included in the story is perfectly calibrated to add ambiance without muddling.
The main draw of RED STICK TWO is the relationship between Virgil and Creole. From the moment that Creole saves Virgil from a would-be assassin, the two form a tightly knit brotherhood forged out of necessity and witty one liners. Their dialogue transcends cheesy; it’s filled with off the cuff humor and realistically depicts the conversation between two men in a sticky situation. By the end of the novel, both Virgil and the reader have grown fond of Richard Creole. It’s their banter that carries RED STICK TWO through the lulls in the action.
While RED STICK TWO’s ending did feel a little rushed and I found its female characters to be underdeveloped, altogether it’s a fun military action novel. Kirkeby’s strong main character, rich descriptions of South American landscapes and culture, and the light-hearted bromance between Virgil and Agent Creole make RED STICK TWO a worthy read for anyone looking for an easy, action-filled escape.
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader