Charles Peterson Sheppard’s narrative voice has captured elements of the detective/thriller genres so convincingly that my first impression was that The Specialist was at least the second book involving the central character. Sheppard’s debut novel is a kickass addition to the bookshelves.
The eponymous narrator has an office with what appears to be the blonde receptionist that comes as standard, sitting front-of-house to forward his calls and check his business mail. But there’s more to her role: Office admin, accounts manager, and her own life outside of the office makes her more than just a caricature. She tells The Specialist that he needs to take a job because money’s tight.
Philip, the hero, appears to have some PTSD issues related to recent events. His last assignment in Costa Rica went sour. He addresses the receptionist’s fears that he needs to pay her salary. She wants him to get back on the saddle.
Sheppard’s hero’s a family man – it adds another dimension to things. The main character’s a solid, go-to guy, aware of his (self-critical) failings as a dad but an expert in areas like Special Ops, certain martial arts and private security, and thankful his kid has turned out so great: A hero who could be regarded as arrogant in the pen of a different author, instead the voice contains the right level of knowledge – and Sheppard has clearly done his research, on everything from boho-chic jewelry to details related to the armaments and weapons of the Israeli Defense Force. And the hero Philip is a really likable guy because of both his flaws and expertise rather than in spite of ’em.
The mission involves the rescue of the femme fatale’s father. Again, this woman is not a cardboard character. But the lucrative mission means that the Specialist must revisit his demons with a return to Costa Rica. The main character faces fear not like a superhero. His thoughts are frequently of the wrong, negative kind. But he generally does the right thing; the effect is an attractive, reliable, self-critical and honest narrator.