Shadow Boys (December 2014) offers a special treat for fans of Jon Cantrell, the main character from Hunsicker’s book, The Contractors, because Jon is back once again with a streak of his usual bad-to-worse luck.
This time around, Jon isn’t working for the DEA. He’s basically working as hired muscle for a powerful attorney, although he works with a little more style and finesse than that term implies. In Jon’s first adventure, a seemingly simple task was anything but simple, but he knows he’s in for trouble from the very beginning when he agrees to help Deputy Chief Raul Delgado with a search for a missing boy. He also has to deal with a vigilante who has decided to clean up the mean streets of Dallas using his own brand of justice, without letting any troublesome laws get in the way.
Jon’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Piper, also introduced in The Contractors, is back, although she doesn’t play as large a role this time around, and there are no road trips this time so Dallas plays a very large part in the story, to the point where the Texas city almost seems like another character in the story. The author describes himself as “fourth-generation native of Dallas” and it shows in his writing. Even if you’ve never been there, you’ll feel like you have after reading Shadow Boys. Unfortunately, a lot of places Jon goes aren’t exactly listed as popular tourist destinations, unless you’re looking to spend some time on the seedier side of town.
The writing style is fast-paced, with the first-person point of view being Jon’s in the chapters that feature him. Other chapters that focus on other characters are written in third-person. This switch might irritate a few readers but it worked for me, especially since Jon’s unique humor and sarcasm practically demands his inner thoughts to be shared.
However, while I didn’t mind the changing point of views, I did have some issue with the constant bouncing around from present to past. There are a lot of flashbacks. Like… a lot. That makes it hard to really get immersed in the story because you never know when you’ll be bouncing back into the past or whose past it will be, and some of those flashbacks, while giving some insight into the characters, didn’t really pertain to the plot.
The Contractors was a compelling read, pulling me from one page to the next with ease. Shadow Boys, while a decent story, doesn’t have that same sense of urgency.
Reviewed by Marty Shaw
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