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By Craig S. Wilson

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RENEGADE PAWN by Craig S. Wilson is riveting and fast-paced and marks the beginning of a great saga.

RENEGADE PAWN is a gritty, suspenseful drama from the city of Rio and book one in the Lucas Rocha Thriller Series.

Lucas Rocha lives in the slums on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. His brother was killed by a corrupt cop and his mother died of AIDS, and now he has two little sisters to raise on his own. Lucas is desperate, so he steals the wallet of Daniel, a Boston cop who’s come to Rio to look for his long-lost biological family. But stealing wallets at the airport isn’t enough, and Lucas realizes he’s going to have to work for Dez, a crime lord who rules the favelas with an iron fist.

Craig S. Wilson’s RENEGADE PAWN is less a novel and more part of one. The first part of the “Lucas Rocha Thriller Series,” and only clocking in at 166 pages, RENEGADE PAWN feels a little bit lightweight. The books ends on a cliffhanger, the kind that would perhaps normally signal the end of a first act. The two main characters only interact once and then go their separate ways for the rest of the book, even though it’s clear they’re going to have to team up in a later installment. This is all to say it’s a bit hard to assess this book on its own.

A bit like a TV pilot, RENEGADE PAWN is mostly setup, and what it sets up is in some cases pretty interesting. Surrounded by enemies on all sides, it is left to the reader to guess how Lucas will escape with his life. It’s a brutal, mostly uncompromising book, and it’s at its best when the characters are at their most desperate and ruthless.

Many of the book’s problems stem from the character of Daniel. Accused of some vague crime back home in Boston and part of a somewhat cheesy romantic arc, Daniel is a hard character to sympathize with. (It’s even hard to take his side when he gets his wallet swiped, if only because the reader already knows how desperate the thief is.) The gritty cop with a heart of gold is obviously a classic literary archetype, but he seems out of place in this world.

RENEGADE PAWN is only one small part of the story it’s telling, but it’s a vivid glimpse into the Brazilian underworld; a little corny at times, but never losing sight of the very human drama at its center.

RENEGADE PAWN by Craig S. Wilson is riveting and fast-paced and marks the beginning of a great saga.

~Charles Baker for IndieReader