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Book Review : Sins Of The Father: A Derek Stillwater Novel by Mark Terry

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There may be no more exciting, compelling, or believable series character in the techno-thriller genre today than author Mark Terry’s Dr. Derek Stillwater. Stillwater is a troubleshooter for The Department Of Homeland Security. He’s also a tough, no nonsense guy, a bit of a loner, and has little patience for red tape or procedure. Derek doesn’t stand on protocol, he crushes its neck under his foot. Especially when it gets in the way of his goal, which is usually tracking down terrorists and foiling their destructive aims. But, he’s no superman, and has plenty of human traits that make him as vulnerable as the man next door. But he is relentless and not the guy that terrorists want on their tail.

Because of Derek’s relentlessness, he has often broken the rules in pursuit of the bad guys. This gets him on the bad side of some of the inevitable political and power hungry overseers, associates, and subordinates from time to time and throughout the series (The Sins of the Father is book six and there are some short stories too.) but his successes overrule those who would stand on decorum. And, speaking of decorum, Derek blurs that line, like a batter erasing the back line of the batters box. On one such occasion, he crossed that line with Russian agent Irina Khournikova.

In Sins of the Father, that indiscretion has come back to haunt him. He travels to Russia to check into the death of Irina, with whom, he finds out, he fathered a son with. Naturally, just as he often runs into inter-agency rivalries in the U.S., he runs into resistance from Irina’s employer, the Russian FSB (their intelligence service). The FSB doesn’t want him meddling in an active investigation, both for fear he’ll embarrass them professionally, and that he may expose truths that could prove politically inconvenient if shown to the world. But Derek has never been one to spare the oppositions feelings, or indeed the feelings of agency heads and field agents in his own country.

But before he can even begin to investigate Irina’s death and cut through the red tape of Russian bureaucracy, he finds himself in the middle of a terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy. To further complicate matters, as a favor to the Secretary Of State, he agrees to investigate the apparent suicide of a U.S. weapons inspector. Along the way he meets the son he never knew he fathered with Irina. But before he can get to know his son, he is kidnapped by a Russian Gang/Terrorist group calling themselves The Red Hands. The Red Hands want Derek to end his investigation into the suicide.

If Derek abhors anything more than bureaucratic red tape and politically minded law enforcement and intelligence operatives, it is blackmail. Especially when he is on the receiving end of such threats. Teamed up with FSB Agent Konstantin Nikitinov, he sets out to retrieve his child, and he won’t let anything stand in his way. Especially the kidnappers of his child, who have it in mind to over throw the Russian government.

Derek Stillwater took the old adage, “fight fire with fire” to heart. He and Nikitinov start their own reign of terror on the Red Hands, giving them way more than they bargained for. As the story barrels towards the climax, like an M1 tank over a sand dune, Derek and Konstantin run rough-shod over criminals and officials on both sides.

One thing the reader can be sure of when he cracks open a Mark Terry book is that it will be solidly crafted, well researched, topical, and there will be plenty of relentless action. Once Derek Stillwater is on the trail, the plot will move as fast as a Formula One racer. Terry’s books and stories exhibit the cream of the crop of the writers craft. There are no holes in the plot. The characters are extremely real and he makes them leap off the page. They each will develop a separate voice in the reader’s mind.

A sense of place is conveyed as if written by the best travel writer. And, almost presciently, Terry has a knack for picking stories that end up being topical and in the news when the book reaches print. It almost seems as if his stories could be subtitled “The Story Behind the Story” on a nightly news broadcast. And after six novels (one is a a novella to be clear), and numerous short stories it becomes apparent that this is no accident or stroke of good luck. The man just seems to have his fingers on the pulse of world events. Either that or he has some inside source.

Mark Terry is a fulltime writer, editor, and ghostwriter, and the author of six Derek Stillwater novels, The Devil’s Pitchfork, The Serpent’s Kiss, The Fallen The Valley of Shadows, and Dire Straits (A Derek Stillwater Novella). He is also the author of several standalone thrillers and also authored the “writers book” Freelance Writing For A Living. When not writing, Mark studies sanchin-ryu karate, lifts weights, bikes, runs, plays guitar and kayaks. A native of Michigan, he is an active member of International Thriller Writers. Furthermore, Mark Terry regularly contributes to the ITW’s monthly newsletter and, in 2008, served as a judge for the Thriller Award. He is also a member of Mystery Writers of America.

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About The Dirty Lowdown

I was born in Pomona, California at a very young age. I had a pretty normal childhood…or I was a pretty normal child hood if mom is telling the story. I was a paperboy and washed cars. I was a soda fountain jock-jerk and a manic mechanic but my first real job was as a labor organizer in a maternity ward. Then, because of the misjudgment of a judge I spent nearly 10 years in the service of our country mostly on KP duty. Our country sure turns out a lot of dirty dishes. I am a past master at pots and pans. They eventually recognized my real talent and let me wander around some very unfriendly places carrying a big radio that didn’t work. Along the way I took up the bass guitar, jotting down stories, electronic engineering and earned a degree in advanced criminal activities. I spent most of my adult life, if you can call it that, working in the I.T. industry, which I was particularly suited for since we worked in rooms with no windows. On and off I taught in colleges, universities and reform schools as a student teacher… I like smog, traffic, kinky people, car trouble, noisy neighbors, and crowded seedy bars where I have been known to quote Raymond Chandler as pickup lines. I have always been a voracious reader, everything from the classics, to popular fiction, history to science but I have a special place in my heart for crime fiction, especially hard-boiled detective fiction and noir. I write a book and music review blog for all genres at The Dirty Lowdown. And another dedicated to Crime Fiction and all things Noir called Crimeways. It’s named after the magazine that appeared in the Kenneth Fearing classic, The Big Clock. There I write scholarly reviews of the classic hard boiled, noir and crime fiction books from the 20's through today. Mostly I drool over the salacious pictures on the covers. I also write for Tecnorati/BlogCritics where i am part of a sinister cabal of superior writers.