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In the first thirty pages of Lies Within, a child is kidnapped and held for ransom, bad guys are gunned down, and people are blown up. The rest of Lies Within is packed with drug smugglers, corrupt cops, CIA crazies and enough techno-toys to stock any recent Hollywood blockbuster movie. What the book lacks is what most readers long for: decent plots, character development and at least one protagonist we can like.

If Largo is writing for Hollywood and Bruce Willis he should be congratulated. He probably will make a mint off the rights of this book. If he is going for literary merit, then he has a long trip still ahead of him.

The book is heavy on dialogue and bon mots from Largo's reluctant hero, Tucker. Tucker is reluctant to do much of anything except reluctantly poach an alligator from the Everglades when required to make ends meet. Tucker also reluctantly took over the care and feeding of his niece and nephew after their parents were blown up 10 years ago.

But are the parents really dead? After all, both parents just happen to work for the CIA and are experts in computer programming, psychological manipulation, and apparently anything that goes boom. Unfortunately, the characters like everything else about this book -- from the nephew's computer knowledge, the niece's nubile young body, the corrupt cop, the CIA operatives who work both sides of the law, the drug smugglers and the fire -- appear contrived. All seem to have been created to prop a non-existent plot.

Order Southern Comfort today from AmazonFrankly, I found myself flipping to the back of the book to see how many more pages I had to read before I finished. This is not a habit you want to encourage if you are writing thrillers. I had high hopes for this book. As I said, the first thirty pages were action packed, and I like a good thriller -- a good thriller. Mediocre thrillers need to be augmented by special effects wizards and have some hulk cast in the starring role.

With this in mind, Largo should rewrite his novel as a screenplay and shop it around to a few independent producers. It reads better as a script. Movie-goers will love it after some Hollywood mogul renames it "Liar" and signs Tommy Lee Jones to play Tucker. If you hear a distant ringing, it's probably Hollywood calling for Mr. Largo.

Susan Yonts-Shepard

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