Author: Jeff Abbott
Published: 2011 – 2015
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Selected By: Lady Esbe
Lady Esbe’s Score:
“Sam Capra is a brilliant CIA agent, loving husband, and soon-to-be father. But in one horrifying moment in London, he loses everything that matters to him. Sam becomes a new kind of hero: an owner of bars in cities around the world, using his skills to track down those who took his family from him. And then, in turn, to help the helpless and protect the innocent.” – from the author’s series summary.
Lady Esbe’s Review
This review pertains to the following novels from the Sam Capra series:
The Last Minute (2012)
Inside Man (2014)
I read all of the books in the series with the exception of the most recent (The First Order, published 2016), and rather than hold my review for that book, I thought I’d go ahead and put out my review of the series thus far.
Sam is a brilliant operator. At the outset of the first novel, you are lead to believe that he is possibly an analyst with a few more roles. However, as the novel develops, you understand just how good at his job he is. However, while he is good at his job, his thought processes aren’t very clear at times and it is clear throughout the entire series, this is his character flaw. Where he is determined, he is often blinded by that determination. Where he is cunning, he is never quite cunning enough to keep him that far ahead of the villains. His skills are only rivaled and possibly out done by Mila (more about Mila shortly). Again, I have to say, no matter what his strengths, his biggest blind spot is not being analytical enough pro or con to a situation.
When we meet Sam, he is an expectant father and the happy husband of a wife who is also in the employ of the CIA. He is a practitioner of parkour (extreme free running…often seen in movies of people running up walls, bounding off of walls, etc.), which is expounded on in each book, ad nauseam. He’s not what someone would picture as a tough guy, standing at six foot, good looking to attractive, wiry to runner’s build, but not imposing at all. This is to his advantage, because at every turn, his enemies are underestimating his determination and ability to back it up. Sam’s is saved by his wife’s warning phone call that their clandestine office building was about to explode. Sam was unable to save anyone but himself and ultimately received the blame for the destruction of the building and loss of life. He spends some time in a CIA prison before being released to a restricted life in New York. His only true contact with the CIA is his best friend, August, who is in the same clandestine unit as Sam.
Sam is given a job as a bartender. While he pours his days away, he plots finding his wife and child, who were abducted the day of the explosion. He meets Mila while tending bar and comes to find that she will be his biggest asset and ally in locating his family. Mila offers Sam the opportunity to work for an organization called the Round Table to locate a missing daughter of one of it’s members and to locate his wife. Once his task is completed, Sam is given the opportunity to stay on with the Round Table as their operative. Mila’s bosses provide him with thirty plus bars located worldwide in any area where he may have to conduct business for them. Each bar is equipped with a manager who is well aware of the bar’s front, a munitions bunker and intel center.
Now with each novel, Sam faces a challenge and a mystery to solve or situation to diffuse. My biggest pet peeve with Sam is that he leaps before he looks constantly. He doesn’t spend very much time analyzing all the facts. In this respect, I find him a pretty poor example of a proficient operator. Rushing headlong into situations tends to get him injured and other either injured or killed, including Mila. He also doesn’t grasp the concept of having gratitude for those who help him. He pays lip service to it, but his actions dictate something quite different. For instance, Mila helped him save his son. However, in a later installment of the novels, Sam doesn’t give Mila the courtesy of letting her know his plans, which results in Mila almost dying. I was extremely angered by this. However, Sam always seems to find a way to come out on top, even if it is by the skin of his teeth.
Mila is the crown jewel for me in this series. Mila is a former school teacher from Moldova. Her sister was lured into human trafficking with the promise of a good hotel job in a Middle Eastern country. Unfortunately, this wasn’t true and she didn’t fair too well in the trade. The result, Mila was confronted by one of the traffickers to either come up with money or three women to replace her sister. Mila had other ideas. Although she is petite, she’s made of tough stuff. She went to a friend who was previously military and had him train her how to fight and kill when necessary. Mila took to her task of rescuing her sister like she had been trained by the military or CIA all of her adult life. She displays an aptitude that makes you want to scream, “get ‘em, Mila.” While she comes off cold, she is actually quite kind and helps those who have been damaged by crimes and especially dotes on Sam’s child when they find him.
We are introduced to other characters that sorely hinder Sam’s logical thinking skills. For instance, there is Leonie, a former forger who used her talents to help people disappear. She and Sam have one thing in common, Sam’s child. When the child was taken, he was placed in Leonie’s care. Subsequently, Sam and Leonie were tasked with killing someone to get the child back. Unbeknownst to Sam, Leonie was the person who had custody of his child. When it came down to it, she was willing to kill Sam but was unsuccessful. Sam then allowed this woman, who wants his child as her own and was willing to kill him for the child, to remain part of the child’s life as a pseudo-nanny or quasi-mom, even though they do not have a relationship beyond that. The only sane person involved in that is Mila. She sees the danger for what it is and in no uncertain terms, tells Sam what she thinks of the situation.
Overall, the action of the series keeps you enthralled. I always want to know how Sam is going to circumvent his circumstances. However, two thirds of the time, I want to throttle him. After the first book, all the situations he gets himself into, are his own fault. Whether he happened into a scenario or jumped in with both feet and not really considering the consequences, Sam isn’t that long on thinking about plots and the hows and whys something occurred. Or if he is thinking, it is so single-minded, it had me hard pressed to see how he was successful at infiltrating criminal organizations before to either bring them down or get established inside an operation.
I think the villains are well constructed, mostly. There are syndicates and there are crimes that are bigger than what Sam can handle on his own. Luckily, he has the Round Table at his back. However, his lack of sincere treatment of taking their tasks to heart or caring what say the Round Table may have in the situation makes me wonder how long can his arrangement last. He likes to play by his own rules and while it can be helpful, I find it more disruptive than anything.
Overall, I like the series quite a lot. There are times I get so frustrated with Sam that I wish he were real so I could slap some sense into him. Mila is my absolute shining star. August is a loyal friend, despite Sam’s actions and I can appreciate August for that. Leonie, as far as I’m concerned, is just biding her time so that she can whisk Daniel (the child) away from Sam and disappear like she’s helped so many other’s to do.
Looking forward to the next installment. Hoping against hope that Sam has learned some valuable lessons, like don’t go off half-cocked, let Mila know your plans, because he tends to run into life threatening trouble versus minor scrapes. As far as heroes go, he is far from perfect and not anything like Hollywood puts on the screen. There is humor in the novels that I can appreciate, as well as nicely executed suspense (minus how Sam go to where he was) of how Sam will get out of this situation.
Lady Esbe read the hardcovers and listened to the CD versions of these books.