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Title: The Standard
Author: John Reinhard Dizon
ISBN: 0-9876027-8-0
Publisher: Tenth Street Press
Available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other eBook retailers, 279 pages, $4.89
Rating: Five stars

In the near future, international groups are planning to return to the gold standard to resolve a recession. Ruthless international mobsters and drug cartels are planning to convert their holdings into bullion before attacking the major gold depositories in three countries – Operation Blackout – to get a monopoly in the new market. M16 assigns William Shanahan to disrupt Operation Blackout with the help of John Gawain. Ah, but Gawain is a convicted murderer released from prisoner in exchange for his assignment. Protagonist Shanahan, a standup guy, struggles with moral issues. He must put aside his antipathy toward Gawain so they can work together to foil Operation Blackout. Their target? Chupacabra, an assassin for the Medellin cartel who is coordinating a nuclear attack on the mainland.

We have two opposites working together: Shanahan, a righteous, upstanding man, and Gawain, a murderer serving a life sentence for serial killing before the government assigned him to the job. Not only must Shanahan find a way to foil Chupacabra’s plot; he must work alongside a man he despises. Shanahan seldom stays out of trouble, and when he does, Gawain’s Machiavellian, murderous tactics cause more for him. He questions the values of M16 and his country who gave Gawain a blank check in the trail of bodies he leaves while disrupting the terrorists’ network. When will too much be considered enough as Gawain stops at nothing to terrorize the terrorists?

I found all characters, protagonist and villain alike, very interesting. The romantic elements in the story force Shanahan and Gawain to reconsider their values. Shanahan starts out judgmental, with Walter Mitty dreams of marrying into British nobility. Instead, he falls in love with Morgana, a stewardess. He mellows out as he navigates the gray world of espionage. At first, I considered Gawain a despicable character, but his romance with Fianna exposes his vulnerability. For the first time, he finds himself putting the safety of another person above his own. By the end of the book, I liked him.

It was fascinating to watch the two men work the opposite sides of the same street. As the agents work together, they begin to appreciate different qualities in one another. The numerous villains invent creative ways for bloodshed, murder, and kidnapping.

A story with conflict and lots of action gets me reading and keeps me turning the pages. This Dizon did, along with his seasoned, layered characters and snappy dialogue. His writing has a James Bond feel to it and reminds me a bit of Tom Johnson’s pulp thrillers. Shanahan seldom stays out of trouble, and when he does, Gawain’s loose cannon tactics cause more for him. If you like James Bond thrillers or Johnson’s pulp tales, you’ll love The Standard.

I rate The Standard five stars.

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