Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Fix by Tod Goldberg

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Fix by Tod Goldberg. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Fix by Tod Goldberg

The Fix by
A Burn Notice Mystery with Michael Westen

Signet (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-451-22554-6 (0451225546)
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-22554-2 (9780451225542)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $6.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Covert spy Michael Westen has found himself in forced seclusion in Miami—and a little paranoid. Watched by the FBI, cut off from intelligence contacts, and with his assets frozen, Westen is on ice with a warning: stay there or get “disappeared.” Driven to find out who burned him and why, he’s biding his time helping people with nowhere else to turn. People like socialite Cricket O’Connor whose own husband has vanished, along with her fortune.

Cricket fell for a handsome world traveler who claimed to be just back from Afghanistan, where he was on a hush-hush government mission. She was charmed—who woudn't want an action hero for a lover? She's been having some doubts, though, since he disappeared off the face of the earth with most of her money. She needs help, but Michael's having doubts too. Because Cricket may not be exactly who she claims to be, either. And when a shadowy Russian woman from Michael's past shows up in Miami with secrets that might just lead to the truth about his burn notice, things really get hot.

Review: Tod Goldberg pens the first in a planned series of tie-in books for the television show Burn Notice with The Fix featuring ex-covert agent Michael Westen who has been "burned" by the government, his identity all but erased from official records, but not (yet) terminated.

Michael isn't sure who burned him, but as long as he stays in Miami he's reasonably safe ... reasonable being a relative term. The Russian agent who recently set up shop in a local hotel gives him cause to pause. But he has to make a living so he uses his finely honed people skills to help others in need, mostly those who can't get help from the very same government that burned him. Such as Cricket O'Connor whose new husband took off with a million dollars and who gets middle of the night visits from his "associates" demanding two million more. Michael believes extorting money from older women doesn't show off the criminal profession in the most positive light and sets out to teach her extortionists (including her husband) a lesson in ethics.

As a book tie-in to Burn Notice, The Fix readily achieves its primary goal of being an extended, albeit written, version of a series episode without sacrificing the identity of the show itself. Arguably in many ways it is better, thought it has an edge to it that will appeal to some, and turn off others. The written Michael Westen is similar in style to the televised version, though in print he has the luxury of being able to expound on his life and his case in far more detail than on television. It should be said, however, that it probably isn't necessary to punctuate every situation in the present with a colorful, though often entertaining, story from the past. His way of dealing with clients is short and to the point. When asked by Cricket where to start her tale of woe, he says, "Why not start at the beginning? But skip over the bits you don't think I'll care about."

The secondary plot involving the Russian agent doesn't quite fit. It almost seems written as an afterthought, something to fill in the gaps in the main story, and for the most part it is a distraction. That it might have something to do with Michael's burn notice is not readily obvious and in any case doesn't further the plot or add value in any meaningful way. Though everything ties together in the end, sort of, one wonders how much stronger the book might have been without it.

Finally, it's worth noting some of the sage advice Michael periodically offers the reader: "In a situation where it seems like the best course of action is to call the police and let them protect and serve, you should call the police. Seems is a nebulous emotion one should ignore." Or: "If you're at home and don't have access to the bomb squad, the best way to open an envelope that you think might contain an explosive charge is to not open it at all." And there are many more. These words of wisdom alone are worth the purchase price.

Special thanks to Penguin for providing a copy of Burn Notice: The Fix for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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