Jonathan Graves and his team had one objective and that was to rescue four adults and five students held captive on a school bus for five days. The captors demanded three million dollars and Jonathan was chosen to be “the bag man,” allowing them to take the money and free the hostages. But not every mission is successful and an unexpected twist would change the course of the mission and take many lives. A group of soldiers get in on the kill and the carnage is beyond devastating. Students handcuffed together for five days and in close proximity of each other, unable to move about freely hoping to survive. But, the situation gets out of control, shots ring out from all directions and the Jonathan and his team lose sight of the situation and the end result is anything but what they expected. Shooters down but one still standing and left of the bus were all it took to kill the hostages in cold blood. But, what one young man recounts at the end would send chills down the spine of not only the survivor but Jonathan’s too. No mercy is shown and the shooter takes out the hostages in such a brutal and sadistic manner it would haunt the normal person’s dreams for a long time. As the scene comes into focus and the author relates the events to the reader, you can see the body count rising, the smell of blood and death all around and the end result is far from over. The carnage has yet to be counted and the final outcome of the mission is not resolved as someone made sure that Jonathan and his team’s position would be followed and the end result manipulated to what it turned out to be. His partner, Boxers, a sharpshooter and the decisions made to take out the opposition should have been enough to complete the mission and bring home the hostages. Their SUV destroyed, their alternate identities in the vehicle and their working identities compromised leaves them no option but to regroup and try and find out what happened. Did the Reverend from the Crystal Palace Church sell them out? Who would set them up but one thing rings true is that there are many players and the police and FBI are among them and not on their side but why? Added into the mix is the corrupt Mexican Government. As Boxers and Jonathan rehash the events that led up to the executions of the hostages they recap and try to formulate a new plan.
Two men discuss their part and both are part of law enforcement. FBI agent Trevor Munro and hired contractor Jerry Sjogren discuss the incident and what still needed to be done for Felix Hernandez the man who hired them. The end result would be a huge pay off and the one lose end was Tristan Wagner the sole student survivor that had to be added to the death list. Why would the heads of the Crystal Palace Church go along with this dangerous plan and endanger its parishioners? Three million dollars to take the risk is a lot of money but is it worth lives? Crystal Palace parents waited for their children to come home were they guilty too?
Venice Alexander aka Mother Hen is the director of operations for the legitimate side of Jonathan’s business called Security Solutions. Dealing with the situation and discussing their options she explains along with another partner what needs to be done and how they should proceed. Gail Bonneville is the other member of the investigative team and she handles the legitimate side of the business and watches the covert side with a keen interest. Facts come into light and the scene comes clearer as the sole survivor of the attack explains what went down in graphically described and brutal account of the executions. But, safety is from their reality as changes have to be made, new identities needed and the quest answers just beginning. Just how did the killers know their position, how and why were they set up and how many other groups and players were involved in this plot.
As the team meets and discusses the situation information about the finances and donations at the Crystal Palace church come to light and a strong conclusion is drawn that they might have sanctioned the kidnappings in order to increase their treasury and to be able to fund their programming on network television. Contributions made before the major outlay and new donors belonging to corporations and funds equal to twice the amount of the ransom. Father Dom D’Angelo is part of the team working with Security Solutions as the author recounts his back-story we get know how and why he and Jonathan met and became close friends. Jonathan’s father was in the mob and took many lives and the father’s family was connected too. Creating a school for children whose parents are in jail and having the father, as its primary counselor was a stipulation when he bought the building for the church.
Meeting with the Director of the FBI Father Dom D’Angelo learns the background behind what is happening with Crystal Palace, the huge donations and who is behind it and why. One CIA agent named Trevor Munro who went by another name is key to the operation and the kidnapping. So, why was she departing this information in the form of a confession and hoping that he would somehow repeat it to the right sources? Learning the connection between an American named Mitchell Ponder and Trevor Munro would help fill in some of the puzzle but not all. Munro was into the sale of drugs and Ponder manufactured the product, which he sold to his best customer a dangerous man named Felix Hernandez. Ponder was killed by Jonathan and the kidnapping and the murders were supposed to weed him out as he was the target. Explaining the chain of events of the donations, the ransom and the link to the Crystal Palace Church is really frightening knowing that somehow someone there allowed the murders to happen. With the help of an informant they hope to find out about the smuggling tunnels in the many different states. His reaction to her words startling and the end result remains to be seen.
Jonathan meets with Father Peron and hopes to enlist his to get out of Mexico. While Jonathan meets with the father Pastor Mitchell receives a disturbing phone call which leads to her placing one using a number she hoped to never employ. While recounting the events he reminds her of her transgressions and the Pastor might have to rethink more than her career. The end result of the children taken would be more than any parent could bear as the truth behind murders would be hidden in burnt carnage. Just how cruel are these players and what is next?
The next two scenes play out like a movie that would keep you fixed to the screen and waiting for more as Jonathan and Boxers come face to face with the police and Tristan learns the true meaning of more than just fear while Gail is about to interrogate Reverend Mitchell and hopefully learn the truth behind Crystal Palace. The betrayals and deceits are many and the death toll rises as more than just simple damage control will settle the dust before all is finally said and done.
The end result is tragic and the trust level lowered as one member is thought to be gone, the police are definitely out to get Boxers and Jonathan and one teen learns many life lessons that most would normally want to forgo. Tough, smart and hardheaded Tristan learns more than he wanted in order to stay alive and just about become part of the team.
What if your parents were brutally murdered would you risk everything to bring down the killer? Maria Elizondo sold herself you might say to Felix Hernandez in order to help bring him down. When approached by this man she stood up for herself but was she safe? When leaving and returning home she finds someone else there? Was this person going to really help her or make things worse? Why was there a tunnel in her bathroom and what was the purpose? Why did the parents of the missionaries agree to allow them to be kidnapped? Why when approached did one think it was no big deal and the other could not believe the truth? What was the real reason they wanted the kidnapping to go down and who was behind it? How would it benefit the church and its members? When Father Dom bears it all to these people what would the end result be when they realize what they had done?
An ending that will make the reader pause for thought as one young teen’s life is in danger, one woman would give up her life for them and some unfinished business will have to wait until the author decides what is next for the team. One drug lord and one CIA agent so corrupt would they get it away with it all? One teenager named Tristan what is his final fate? A fast paced plot that kept this reader glued to the printed page as it read the book in two hours and could not put it down until I read the dramatic and explosive ending. Why would parents put children in danger? What happens to Crystal Palace Church and the leaders? Just how far will someone go for money and just how corrupt are governments and our agencies included? Author John Gilstrap leaves the reader wanting to find out the next chapter in the lives of Jonathan and Boxers and hopes that Tristan might make it back in the next one too. Great novel. Great plot. Outstanding characters and great mystery thriller.
Let give this book: FIVE SCORPIONS
Fran Lewis: reviewer
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