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Friday, January 24, 2014

THE BACKUP MEN (Mac McCorkle #3) (audiobook) by Ross Thomas

Originally published in 1971.

Audiobook edition published by HighBridge Audio in 2013.
Read by Brian Holsopple 
Duration: 6 hours, 1 minute.

Ross Thomas (1926-1995) is a multiple Edgar Award winner. HighBridge Audio is going back and re-releasing a number of his books as audiobooks. 

The Backup Men is #3 in the four part Mac McCorkle series. I had not read or listened to any books by Ross Thomas before this one and, to his credit, Thomas did an extraordinary job of getting this newbie listener up to speed rather quickly.

Mac McCorkle is a part owner of a rather fancy restaurant in Washington, D.C. that he calls a "saloon." His partner is Mike Padillo who used to work for the CIA or a similar government entity (he is never quite clear about this) and is well-known in the professional hitman/bodyguard/spy community. 

Padillo is approached by a couple of well-known members of his professional community, a set of nearly identical male and female twins, the Gothars, to be their backup man in an operation. They are guarding the new king of a country next door to Kuwait. Remember that this is still 1971 so the massive oil fields in the Middle East were still being explored and developed. In this case, this little country was just being opened up to Western oil exploration, assuming that the new king lives long enough to sign the contracts, that is.
Photo by  Niels Noordhoek

It turns out a pair of equally well-known spies/thugs/hit men are out to kill this new king. When the male twin is found dead in McCorkle's apartment Padillo agrees to help the surviving twin escort the new king. McCorkle insists on coming along as a "talented amateur" and the chase begins.

Although this is a shorter-than-average audiobook, it just felt like the first half of the book was going nowhere. There was lots of posturing, discussion about what makes a good saloon (on a separate point, it really irritated me that McCorkle insisted on calling his fancy high-end restaurant a saloon. Simple rule: if you have a maitre d' you are not a saloon), a discussion about restoring old cars and their relative worth and lots of talk about Padillo's past that revealed not much about Padillo's past.

Once the story finally gets moving (about 60% of the way into the book) the action drives the story but the ending is just so-so. 

Brian Holsopple's reading of the book was quite good. He handled a number of different accents quite well. His performance of McCorkle's nearly non-stop stream of smart aleck comments and internal observations was one of the bright spots of this audiobook.

My short take on this story: McCorkle's quirky point of view on the world of international spying and his smart aleck comments make the story more palatable but it was just not enough to make an okay story a great story.

Note: I was given a copy of this audiobook through Audiobook Jukebox's Solid Gold Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5 and it can be purchased at Amazon.com here: The Backup Men by Ross Thomas.  

Reviewed on January 24, 2014

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