Mercury News: Myles Knapp: Gritty thrillers by Dana Haynes, Don Mann, Ben Coes, Jeffrey S. Stephens and Kyle Mills

May 7th, 2013

Mercury News
By Myles Knapp

I planned this to be a tough-guy, military-guy or at least honorable-CIA-spy-guy column. But Daria Gibron — the lead character in Dana Haynes’ “Ice Cold Kill” — kept popping up from out of nowhere, treating my arm like it was her own, personal pipe cleaner. You know — bend it this way, bend it that way, bend it, bend it, bend it. Rest. Now break it in half, and twist everything into an ugly circle. That kind of pipe cleaner.

She had to be in the column. There was no point in my having two arms if I was going to write something that dealt with only half of the real world. But I could keep my write arm (pun intended) if “Ice Cold Kill” was my lead item.

So here’s a sample of Haynes’ brand of storytelling: “Before he was aware of it, she slid behind him, pulled up his arm, and twisted painfully. His shoulder popped out of its socket and lights flashed before his eyes.”

You get the idea. Tight, basic prose that doesn’t get in the way of the action.

Gibron is a woman with an uncertain future. Former Shin-Bet and exiled to the United States under FBI protection, she’s a thrill junkie who still freelances. She’s trigger-happy, focused, extremely dangerous and never, ever boring.

“Ice Cold Kill” (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 343 pages).

Now, those tough guys …

“SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Scorpion” and “Hunt the Wolf” by Don Mann with Ralph Pezzullo (Mulholland Books; $25.99, 336 pages; and $25, 320 pages, respectively). I cracked open these Thomas Crocker thrillers with lots of trepidation — fearsof 500-word, Tom Clancy-style weapon-orgasmagraphs, so drawn out they would make me long to reread Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” In the original Russian.

But I was as wrong as a donut at Weight Watchers.

Crocker’s a tough guy’s tough guy. He and his team protect the USA from, well, pretty darn much everybody. In “Wolf” the team moves from Pakistan to the streets of Jordan, taking on Islamic militants and al-Qaida. Then — BANG! — in “Scorpion” the team leaps on pirates off the east coast of Africa.

Mann has been associated with the Navy SEALs for 30 years — as a platoon member, assault team member, boat crew leader and more. So I’d guess he knows what he’s writing about.

To me, both books read like a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child — fast and clean. But there’s more military structure, more politics and lots of action. HOOAH!

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