The Night Charter by Sam Hawken (Mulholland-Dec. 8th)-Jaded thriller fans take notice: Camaro Espinoza is on the scene. Since she fled NYC about a year ago, Camaro has made a place for herself in Miami. It’s quiet, peaceful, and running fishing charters in her boat, the Annabel, pays the bills. Things are good, until Parker Story comes to her boat, asking questions about her charters. She’s pretty clear about it: it’s fishing, nothing else, no funny business. But when he offers her $10,000 to help him and a few others bring in a man from Cuba, she finds herself saying yes. The trip seems to go off without a hitch. Parker and Co. were supposed to get $100,000 for the deal, but Matt Clifford, an ex con with a penchant for violence, has other ideas. He wants double, and plans to hold the man until his group pays up. It’s a recipe for disaster, and double cross is inevitable.
Now Parker is terrified. Not just for himself, but for his 14 year old daughter Lauren, and he asks (begs) Camaro to help him with the exchange. Camaro can’t say no. It’s not because of Parker, but because of his daughter. Her time as a medic in the army hasn’t just honed her medical skills, but it’s made her tough, with a solid sense of justice, even if that justice comes at the business end of a gun. Killing bad guys is par for the course, and she won’t hesitate to do it.
By now, readers will realize that this wasn’t just a simple smuggling operation. The man from Cuba is kind of a big deal with a counterrevolutionary group, and Cuban intelligence will do anything to silence him, especially since he’ll have a bigger mouthpiece in the US. Camaro doesn’t care about any of that, though. All she cares about is making sure Lauren is safe. She made a promise to Parker, and she plans to keep it, even if it means an end to her quiet life in Miami.
Camaro is one of the best creations to come along in a long time. She reminds me a bit of Bill Loehfelm’s Maureen Coughlin or Ingrid Thoft’s Fina Ludlow: prickly, slow to smile, no nonsense to a fault, unhesitating in the face of violence, but with an innate sense of good. There’s a lot more to explore with Camaro (including what really happened a year ago in NYC-I want to know!!) Also, Matt Clifford is a suitably creepy bad guy. Parker always hesitated to let “Uncle Matt” around his daughter, and probably with good reason. He’s a meth head with a mean streak a mile long. Not a good combo. He’s also not the brightest-he’s like a weasel, slipping out of trouble yet mostly thinking with his hind brain, or perhaps what’s in his pants. Yuck. His confrontation with Camaro (because it’s inevitable) is something readers should look forward to. I know I did. Also, the man drives a vintage Dodge Charger, with YELLOW AND BLACK body work. One would think, if one was up to no good, that one would drive something a little more inconspicuous. It’s what happens when a person’s ego is bigger than their brain. However, he’s really not to be trifled with. Like I said, he’s got a cruelty to him and a ruthless sense of self preservation earned in prison.
The Night Charter is a sleek, lean, thrilling machine, and readers will demand more about Camaro. Hawken doesn’t tie everything up in a pretty little bow at the end either. Such is life. Carve out some time for this one, because you’ll likely want to gulp it down in one sitting.