After battling the Chicago mob, Army veteran McCallister, wife Carey, and stepson John are relocated under WITSEC to Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Tending bar at El Rococo and renamed Ron Riley, the former soldier pours drinks, collects criminal intel, and leads a long-coveted quiet life. Ambushed one day, forced into a vehicle outside his cozy home, Ron wakes queasy and canvas-hooded to gunfire. Escape means entering a tropical chaos where drug lords, a Texas-based pharmaceutical producer, rogue FBI agents, and local police collaborate—no matter the human cost. When a valued asset is left for dead in Ron’s living room, and wife Carey kidnapped, he must “join” the conspiracy while out-pacing its sociopathic assassin—lovely la soldado.
Hardwired to help underdogs and the exploited working-class, much like the heroes of Carl Hiaasen’s “tropical” mode, action-adventure thrillers, Ron Riley communicates with one-time Chicago pal Matt Russo, newly sober and working as Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI’s Miami field office. One gets the impression that, if not for Riley’s gun-range-employed spouse, Carey, practical concerns might be more difficult. Four-year-old stepson, John, is laudably adaptable, even when Ron must move him to safety with trusted friend Margarita—she of the shotgun and loving attention. The atmosphere of local collusion between police and higher-level drug dealers (like oily “cowboy” Russel Thurgood fronting for Texas big pharma Shelling-Polk Corporation and hoping to import quality highs) results in resistance to the exhausted War on Drugs. It’s no surprise that even the menaced public are wary of upsetting the economy.
Among wise-cracks, gunshots, and light sex, the author demonstrates that attitudes toward human rights, their effects on drug use and government policy are in violent flux. Roughly halfway through, the book begins laboring under poor copyediting: non-English language requires italicization. Non-whites are invariably described as “caramel-” or “ebony-skinned,” often more than once per page. What begin as minor tics accumulate, adding to the read an irksome repetition that easily could have been addressed.
SOUR PINEAPPLES IN PARADISE’s strong, but all-too-human, protagonist and admirably complex cast dignifies a sometimes ill-balanced drama/humor dynamic, but mostly achieves the author’s stated devotion to good stories, perseverance, and thirst for knowledge.
~William Grabowski for IndieReader