Nefarious: The Blackwell Files by Steven F. Freeman
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Rating: ***** Five Stars
Estimated word count: 60,300 words
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“Thriller/mystery author Steve Freeman is a former member of the US Army’s Signal Corps, a twenty-five year employee of a large American technology company, and an avid traveler who has visited five continents. The Blackwell Files novels draw from his firsthand knowledge of military service, the tech industry, and the diverse cultures of our world.
He currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.”
“Nefarious, the debut medical thriller of “The Blackwell Files” Series, is a fast-paced foray charting the investigation of an ex-Army captain and an intelligent, beautiful FBI agent into a covert, sinister project, a saga certain to mesmerize anyone who likes a thriller served up with plenty of surprises and some mind-bending science, set against a backdrop of the pursuit of impossible love.”
My Two Cents:
This is the first 5 star Indie review I’ve ever given. Nefarious is a first class mystery thriller that starts in a military setting but doesn’t limit itself to the military world. This story will rope in both civilians and veterans alike.
While great mysteries are a dime a dozen, what sets this tale apart is how well the author explores serious, real world issues. He brazenly takes on uncomfortable subjects, such as injured veterans’ challenges with overcoming shattered self-confidence, emotional disconnection from reality and struggling to find new goals in life. He deftly drops the reader into the shattered warrior’s shoes in such a way that you aren’t just interested, but you really care what happens next to the character. All without coming across overly depressive and still crafting this emotional angle as an integral part of the story rather than a side diversion.
Now, the author does take some extreme “artistic license” with the details of military operations. For example, officers wandering around off base in Afghanistan to some civilian bar to drink, flirt with locals and “hang out.” Many veterans would find that annoyingly fictitious. Still, I admit that’s a personal bias that doesn’t detract from the narrative, but rather makes for a more wild story.
The only issue that’s somewhat negative is the rushed ending. While the conspiracy is wrapped up tightly and logically, the method doesn’t fit with the rest of the book’s smooth tone. During the journey you’re fed tantalizing hints, grim foreshadow and believable twists. The “who done it?” feeling rises to a fever pitch by the last chapter… and then the heroes just have a eureka moment and unravel the whole sordid tale in one scene. Rather anti-climactic, in my opinion.
However, none of that changes the fact that this is one of the most addictive page turners I’ve had the pleasure to read in a while. The tale is both fun and emotionally engaging- a thriller with a soul. Definitely worth both the money and time to read.