Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Safe and Sound"

J.D. Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage, North Carolina.

He applied the "Page 69 Test" to his new novel, Safe and Sound, and reported the following:
Safe and Sound is the third book in the Jack Keller series, about a bail bondsman/bounty hunter operating in Southeastern North Carolina. Jack's a military veteran still suffering nightmares from his experiences in the first Gulf War, when he saw his entire unit wiped out by so-called "friendly fire." The three books so far detail Jack's journey in trying to create a normal life for himself and re-learn how to connect with the people in his life, even though he's addicted to the adrenaline rush he gets from hunting people down.

Page 69 of Safe and Sound is the end of Chapter Nine. DeGroot, the book's antagonist, is looking for his former partners in crime, who've disappeared with an object he considers vital to his financial future. DeGroot is a South African mercenary whose specialty is extracting information from prisoners by torture. He doesn't consider himself an evil person, merely a professional doing a tough job that most people don't have the stomach for. But he's begun to worry that he's enjoying his work a little too much, and he's decided to retire. The object he seeks is the key to that. He's just obtained a clue to the whereabouts of the object via court records.

So. Find the child, find Riggio and Powell, get the other key. He’d probably have to kill them. They weren’t likely to be cooperative after Lundgren had tipped them off. Once he had the other key he’d have what he needed to finance his long awaited and, to his mind, richly deserved retirement. Someplace warm, with a beach. DeGroot had waited a long time for an opportunity like this, and there was no way he was going to just give up now.

He considered the child. She was no threat, and applying “pressure” to her probably wouldn’t have the same effect on Riggio and Powell. Still, one never knew. People got attached. He mentally filed her under the category of things that might be handy later. But how to find her? Unless the police found Lundgren’s body, they were liable to give searching for her a low priority. So far, for all they know it was a family squabble. But the lawyer … ah, the lawyer probably had people looking. He’d try to find out what they knew.

With that thought, and with a plan forming in his mind, DeGroot stood up. It was good to be back on the hunt.

One of the themes I explore in Safe and Sound (and the other Keller books) is the effect that violence, even so-called "justified" violence has, not only on the victim, but on the person committing it. The quotation in the front of the book is from one of my favorite works, Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest: "Play with murder long enough and it gets you one of two ways. It makes you sick, or you get to like it."
Read more about Safe and Sound, including an excerpt, at the publisher's website. Check out J.D. Rhoades's website, his blog, his MySpace page, and his Crimespace page.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue