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The 19th Element, A James Becker Thriller

Average Rating 3.5
( 16 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Most exciting thriller ending I can remember. And that says some

Most exciting thriller ending I can remember. And that says something!!!

posted by EsquireJack on April 14, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

A plausible thriller that makes it all the more engaging

Being a writer myself, I found this book a good read. It had all of the points of a great thriller. Terrorists. Facts that are so real you can touch them. Details about how we have become so complacent in our day-to day lives that we forget how clever people who might w...
Being a writer myself, I found this book a good read. It had all of the points of a great thriller. Terrorists. Facts that are so real you can touch them. Details about how we have become so complacent in our day-to day lives that we forget how clever people who might want to harm us could be. The characters were believable and well designed.

In his novel, John shows us his main character nicknamed James (aka Beck), and his wife Beth living in the small town of Red Wing, Minnesota. James and Beth were former agents for the US government, now retired and trying to live out a peaceful life with their daughters. That is, until a terrorist group decides to blow up a nearby nuclear plant, sending poisonous gasses across half of the continent. Beck puts a series of seemingly random incidents around town together and the big picture starts to emerge. He enlists the help of several friends in the area.

The scary part is that John has done his homework. The threat of such an event happening is laid out in such stark detail that you could see how easily it could be done if we let our guard down. That¿s probably the most engaging part of the whole story. It really could happen.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The ending was action-packed and filled with the kinds of details that kept me wanting more. But to get to this fabulous ending, I found the first half of the book to be a series of very dry, heavy loads of technical overview. The writing in the first half seemed to be written in a different point of Mr. Betcher¿s writing journey in comparison to the last half of the book. In the beginning, the characters were formed very well, but the fact presentation was weak, making it more dry than enjoyable. I know that many readers who are looking for a ¿quick read before bed¿ or a treat to take on the train or commute to work will easily find themselves overwhelmed with the enormity of it all.

The second problem I have with the story is probably a matter of style. That is to say, I wouldn¿t have handled some of the wording or dialogue that way. There were some stylistic choices that Mr. Betcher employed that only compounded the enormity of the first-half-info-dump. While strictly speaking, there was nothing wrong with the writing itself, these odd choices didn¿t help the reader get through the dry areas. The dialogue tags should never take you out of the story. In fact, they should be nearly invisible as you read. But occasionally ¿ I assume to increase the speed through an action or to keep the speakers straight in a room full of people ¿ Mr. Betcher employed a more script-style format for dialogue that seemed to pull me out of the story and remind me that I was merely the reader, still in my bedroom reading a book.

If you are in the mood for a thriller that will leave you really thinking and watching the world around you with a fresh set of eyes, this book holds great potential. By the time I got to the end, I found that I REALLY enjoyed the story presented. Just be prepared to put in the time to see the whole story unfold, and look past some of the author¿s stylistic quirks.

Pros: Great story. Realistic set-up. As scary and thought provoking as any story I¿ve read in recent years.
Cons: A bit dry at times that makes plodding through difficult, and odd stylistic choices for dialogue that compounds the issue.

posted by Jerry_Hanel_Author on December 2, 2011

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  • Posted April 14, 2012

    Most exciting thriller ending I can remember. And that says some

    Most exciting thriller ending I can remember. And that says something!!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2011

    I'm hungry for more.

    John Betcher has written a realistic, page-turning, pulse pounding thriller. The 19th Element is a thriller full of details to make you feel you are part of the story from beginning to end as the hero, Beck, uses his brains rather than brawn to defeat the terrorists.

    I'm glad there are more books to read in the series because I'm hungry for more.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2011

    Betcher Has Done it Again

    Betcher Has Done it Again with his book
    The 19th Element - you've never been scared so "good!"

    The 19th Element - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat

    "Gentlemen. You sit here in this room, insulated from reality, comfortable in your delusions that you are safe from international terrorism. In your imaginary world, your families are safe. Your neighbors are safe. We are all totally safe. Your delusions have led you to the conclusion that the nuclear catastrophe waiting to happen inside that fence across the parking lot is a fiction. Of course, you all know how extreme the consequences of a successful terrorist attack on the nuclear plant would be. But because of your fantasies, you discount the dangers - not only to yourselves and your loved ones, but to everyone in the eastern half of the United States and possibly beyond. But what if the worst possible scenario proves not to be a fantasy at all, but a deadly fact?"

    These words and more are spoken by James "Beck" Becker as he tries to convince a security group meeting at the Prairie River Nuclear Plant that there is very possibly a real threat of an attempt by Al Qaeda to run a plane full of explosives into their spent fuel pool. They simply aren't buying it.

    After the murder of a professor who had been experimenting with potassium turns up on the shores of the Mississippi, Beck started putting things together. When he learned the name of the professor's assistant, Farris Ahmed, he knew he was on to something big. After researching potassium, as well as the procedures taken to secure nuclear waste, Beck was positive that there would be an attack -- and the nuclear plant would be the target. But getting the attention of those responsible for security without appearing to be a total fool was almost impossible.

    In reading The 19th Element, I've had a quick enlightenment as to how power companies make power. I've learned what actually happens to "spent" nuclear fuel. I've also been educated on the true hatred that seeps from the influence of Al Qaeda. And to be totally honest with everyone, it scares the pure hell out of me! I can see the possibilities of a nuclear disaster such as the one envisioned in The 19th Element actually happening. My question is, are we truly prepared for this or anything even close to this happening? I can only pray that we are. The 19th Element is definitely a "wake-up America" book that we should all read and listen to.

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  • Posted November 26, 2010

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    Bridget's Review

    The 19th Element is an heart-pounding, pure adrenaline rush. I actually felt exhausted after reading it. This is probably one of the highest compliments that I could ever give. When I get so wrapped up in a book that I feel like I'm the main character, I know that I've read a winner! I loved this book!

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  • Posted November 15, 2010

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    A Mind-Bending Suspense Thriller

    (Official Apex Reviews Rating: 4.5 Stars)

    When James "Beck" Becker, a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative, retires to his hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota, all he wants is to do is settle into a normal, routine life with his newly established law practice; however, when the body of a local university professor mysteriously turns up on the shores of the Mississippi River, Beck begins to suspect foul play. Shortly thereafter, the professor's assistant goes missing, two fertilizer trucks are hijacked and stolen, and even more strange events begin to unfold - putting Beck on high alert that something terrible is about to go down...little does he know, an all but forgotten terrorist organization has plans to re-launch itself on the international stage, and - unless Beck acts quickly enough to thwart their efforts - the small town of Red Wing will soon be the new Ground Zero...

    Rich with intrigue and mind-bending suspense, The 19th Element is a compelling read. Throughout the pages of his enrapturing new political thriller, author John Betcher takes the reader on a nonstop, action-packed ride of true-to-life adventure. Alternating between the perspectives of Beck and the terrorist cell, The 19th Element is sure to keep readers guessing as the plot thickens, the characters clash, and the winding tale ultimately unravels at breakneck pace. After all, as a nation, our collective memories of the horrors of 9/11 are not that far removed, and with the looming threat of terror attacks omnipresent in our daily lives, Betcher does an effective job of reminding the reader - like Beck - to stay ever vigilant, lest the wounds of the past are tragically reopened...

    An entertaining read.

    Josee Morgan
    Apex Reviews

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  • Posted August 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A first rate psychological thriller

    Told from the point-of-view of a former elite U.S. military intelligence operative, and the perspective of an Al Qaeda-backed terrorist cell, The 19th Element by John L. Betcher is a first rate psychological thriller that will hook your interest early and keep you reading non-stop until the final page.

    Although this is the second release in the series, The 19th Element takes place a few months prior to the author's debut, The Missing Element. James "Beck" Becker has settled into retirement and is attempting to live a normal life, putting his law degree to use with a legal practice in his hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota. Not much happens in the small town so when a scientist-professor of agriculture is found murdered and the only suspect, a lab assistant, is missing, Beck takes notice. Beck may be officially retired from government intelligence work, but he cannot ignore his training, experience, or gut reactions. When he discovers that the assistant is Arab he brings his theories to the local police.

    Ottawa County's Chief Deputy Sheriff, Doug Gunderson, is somewhat aware of Beck's background and the pair has a friendship that goes back to school days. However, Gunderson is leery about starting a "terrorists in Red Wing panic" based on Beck's gut feelings and little hard evidence. When not one but two fertilizer trucks are hijacked, Beck begins to put the pieces together. He envisions an Oklahoma City-type bombing and the only target worth hitting would be the nearby Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant. Fearing a Chernobyl style meltdown, Beck continues his investigation despite the lack of support from any government agency or Gunderson. Beck has no faith in the FBI, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), state police, or power plant security to ward off a terrorist attack and calls in his ex-military friend, Terry "Bull" Red Feather, for help.

    We meet perhaps the strangest sleeper cell imaginable. An Arab lab rat (desperate to show his worth to Al Qaeda) who is capable of turning a truck load of pot ash into a powerful bomb, and a pair of brainless, redneck anarchists led by a bitter and dying survivor of the 1979 Three Mile Island incident.

    The author brings all the players together for a tour de force final few dozen pages that make The 19th Element one of the most entertaining, exciting thrillers I've read in a long time. Becker is a character that you can cheer for. The banter between Beck and his wife, and Beck and Gunderson shows the author's substantial talent for writing dialogue. A relentless pace, quirky yet realistic dialogue, and fascinating, believable characters keep the pages turning. Considerable research, attention to detail, and a well-plotted story make this a memorable read. Highly recommended.

    By William Potter for Reader's Choice Book Reviews

    Review copy provided by author.

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