Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: GRECO'S GAME by James Houston Turner

Plot: The story of former KGB colonel Aleksandr Talanov continues in the hotly-anticipated follow-up to USA Book News's Best Thriller of 2011, Department Thirteen. Greco's Game finds Talanov witnessing the brutal murder of his wife. Convinced the bullet was meant for him and wracked with guilt, he spirals downward on a path of self-destruction, hitting rock-bottom on the mean streets of Los Angeles. But in a seedy world ruled by the Russian mafia, all is not as it seems. Was her murder an accident, or was it a carefully-planned strategy? The answer lies in Greco's Game, a chess game played in 1619 that 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?


    My thoughts: When I first read the summary of this book, I admit that I was intrigued, even though I’m not real big on spy thrillers.

From the very first sentence, Turner captures the reader with words full of pulsating adrenaline. His character, Alex Talanov, reminded me of that good-looking guy on The Perfect Weapon—devoted, faithful, and determined to seek justice…and look hot doing it. I couldn’t help thinking back to that movie when Talanov drop-kicked the bouncer trying to get back into that night club. The fact that he was in his fifties was negligibly overlooked.


Still reeling over his wife’s murder, Talanov struggles to find reason to get up in the morning; and since he was once part of the Russian KGB, the authorities do everything possible to put him down for good. With everyone wanting a piece of him, he immediately starts off as a “wanted man,” which then spins the reader into this ludicrous Mission Impossible set.

After the first 10 chapters or so, the story line began to wane my interest.


The book is a typical thriller that takes you on one rollercoaster ride after another without a chance to breathe. I often felt dizzy by the calculating plot and deadened by the assortment of characters that kept dropping out of nowhere. Like a chess game, you really have to concentrate and pay attention; as much as I tried to play along, somewhere along the line I just didn't care to know the winning results.



Not to say that it was bad, of course. In fact, it’s a great story for those who like international thrillers. But, personally, I just couldn’t get into it.

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