Friday, June 14, 2019

The Terminator #04 - Crystal Kill

In an effort to cross-promote to their own 'The Executioner' consumers, publishing house Pinnacle utilized the same fonts and artistic covers for their short-lived 'The Terminator' series. The books, written by porn editor Dennis Rodriguez as John Quinn, lasted for six installments from 1983-1984. The series features an ex-CIA assassin named Gavin, whose attempts to marry and settle-down were suspended after being set-up on his last assignment (told as an origin story in the series debut “Mercenary Kill”). Now, he's a semi-fugitive living under the assumed name of Bob Evans in a Colorado mountain town. Without his modest retirement benefits and pension, Gavin takes on private investigator jobs for money.

The novel begins with a hired killer named Soto violently murdering a family in Miami. After reconvening with his boss, kingpin El Jefe, Soto is advised to take a new assignment on Catalina Island, off the California coast. A movie director turned drug dealer has received a large amount of product, yet hasn't provided payment for the goods. Soto's job is to become the enforcer and make the man pay. But how does any of this involve Gavin?

A scorned lover has employed Gavin to find her book-selling husband. He ran off with a publishing rep and was last seen on Catalina Island. Gavin, not enthused about his role in a marital dispute, bitterly accepts the assignment for the lucrative payout. Convenient, yet it seems like a lackluster way for the author just to connect beacon points between mafia enforcers and The Terminator.

Once Gavin arrives on the island, he reaches out to his old friend Doug and Doug's wife Marie. Gavin learns that Doug has apparently been killed while fishing offshore. The grieving Marie feels there's more to the story and provides details to Gavin. Combining Doug's hefty business debts with the fact that the body was never found leads Gavin to believe there was malicious intent involved.

Connecting the dots, readers learn that El Jefe and Soto are both after Pierce, an ex-Universal Studios director who's debauchery has pushed him from Hollywood elitist to grindhouse hack. Pierce's distributor has gone missing (readers suspect it is Gavin's friend Doug) with an enormous supply of cocaine, putting Pierce in arrears financially with wholesaler El Jefe. When bone-breaker Soto arrives on El Jefe's behalf, he finds that Pierce is protecting himself with his own team of enforcers.

At the 75-page mark, it's abundantly clear that the author is having a blast writing this. It's a funny, captivating chase story as Gavin and Pierce pursue Doug's whereabouts while tangling with mob killers. Specifically, the interplay between Pierce's two enforcers and El Jefe's hit-men is worth the price of admission. I had no issue that the foursome absorb most of the book's narrative. It seemed as though Gavin was an unnecessary fifth-wheel, but kudos to the writer for realizing where the story's true strengths are. This was thoroughly enjoying and highly recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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