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Posted September 1, 2013
The Critical Element - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
Rodney slid back in the chair, his hands gripping the armrests. he cracked his neck to both sides before beginning his tale. "It was yesterday afternoon," he said. "Sunday...and I was out on the John Deere checking my fields, you know...and all of a sudden I hear this sound. It was a kinda weird sound, you know?" "It was kinda like whoosh-thud...tumble, tumble, tumble," he said. "So I got up and looked toward the sound." ..."something was knocking down my corn"... "This thing, whatever it was, knocked down maybe thirty or forty feet of head-high corn stalks, in a straight line," he continued. "I saw the last ones go down." He clapped one flattened hand downward onto the other. "Then all was quiet."
..."I stand up straight and look around," he said, "my wrench hand at the ready. But there's no sign of man nor beast." ... So I stoop down and start pawing through the grass and then...just when I'm about to give up, the back of my hand hits something big and solid in the grass." ..."I decided to give the thing a kick with my boot." "And voila,... there it was." "It was a meteor!"
Rodney Holton was a local farmer known in the city of Red Wing, Minnesota for his flim-flammery, so when he recited his story to Attorney James Becker, Beck had his doubts as to how much was true and how much wasn't. And to assure his belief he and his wife Beth decided to pay a visit to Rodney's farm where he displayed his 'meteor' and charged $20.00 per person to view. Yep, Rodney was up to his old tricks again. The taped off area that contained burned grass and what appeared to be a bowling ball dug into the ground didn't quite fit the story he had relayed to Beck. Yet there was something that just didn't ring quite right that had Beck believing there might be a bit more to Rodney's story. When the FBI turns up looking for the meteor, Beck's feelings proved true. What didn't quite fit was the finding of Hoof and Mouth Disease that were found in Rodney's cattle. This strain appeared to be found only in the South African tribal farming area, so how did it get to the US. And what is its connection with the meteor?
The answers to these questions plus, lead Beck and the FBI to suspect North Korea has a hand in at least one part of the mystery. Their beliefs are reinforced when the meteor turns up missing and is found to have been in the presence of a Korean man who was found dead with traces of a fluffy, white powder that is such a favorite of terrorists world-wide - Anthrax. After a search of the man's work place Beck and agent Costa discover half of the powder found had been mixed with another white substance. What was missing was the other half of undiluted powder that could kill thousands if placed in the right venue.
I've read everything John L. Betcher has written and every time I think he can't get any better. Well he does. The Critical Element is by far his best in the James Becker series. I can't wait to see what Beck will do next.
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Posted February 15, 2015
Posted July 16, 2014
Reviewed by Paul Johnson for Readers' Favorite
General consensus within the scientific community was that the North Korean weather satellite was dead on arrival in space and was promptly forgotten. But now the satellite has awakened and North Korea wastes no time in launching its secret space-based weapon against the United States. Unfortunately, North Korea's aim is a little off and their surprise package lands in the middle of nowhere; Ottawa County, Minnesota to be exact. James “Beck” Becker is retired from a career serving his country as a military intelligence operative and now practices law in his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota.
Things get interesting when local con man Rodney Holton seeks his legal advice regarding a meteor strike on Rodney’s farm in rural Red Wing. Beck suspects that the meteor may be something else and his suspicion is confirmed when the FBI comes looking for the mysterious object. But, before the Feds can get their hands on the meteor, it vanishes, leaving Beck and the Feds behind to deal with an angry farmer and something more—Rodney’s cattle have begun to get sick. Could the sickness be caused by the strange object? In The Critical Element by John L. Betcher, Beck and his wife Beth are once again called upon to figure out what's going on before it's too late.
I chose to read and review The Critical Element by John L. Betcher because I had the privilege of reviewing one of Betcher's earlier books in the series and I looked forward to reading this one. I was not disappointed. Suspense, adventure and intrigue abound. This book delivers with a touch of humor, which helps move the story nicely along. Betcher's plot is tight as usual and well paced, and his characters are always entertaining. I highly recommend all the books in the series.
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Posted February 10, 2014