Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fun Turned To Tragedy

It seems unlikely I'll read any more Kill Squad books. I was not exactly blown away by VOYAGE OF DEATH, and Manor's third Kill Squad book isn't much of an improvement.

Although the "heroes" of Mark Cruz's men's action series are San Diego cops, THE DEADLY MASSAGE (a great title, I admit) follows in the footsteps of VOYAGE OF DEATH by taking place outside the United States. Obviously based on THE MOD SQUAD, except the woman is Hispanic and the men are assholes, the Kill Squad is macho, misogynist white guy Chet Tabor; tough chick Maria Alvarez, who despises Chet's womanizing, but can't resist sleeping with him; and large black guy Grant Lincoln, who remains sexless to avoid intimidating the white truck drivers who bought these paperbacks off the racks in 1976.

The Kill Squad is supposed to be an elite unit, but Tabor is fuming that the brass is wasting his time by putting him and Lincoln undercover in a massage parlor to bust hookers. Instead, the two guys decide to take three of the girls home for a little five-way--free of charge, of course--but the booty call is interrupted by an attack by the establishment's bouncers, a car chase, and a shootout that leaves Alvarez' sedan at the bottom of the ocean, one of the hookers dead, and Tabor thirsting for vengeance.

Improbably, the squad convinces their boss to send them expenses-paid to Hong Kong to pursue the other two girls, who have been kidnapped as part of a sex slavery operation. DEADLY MASSAGE is mainly a solo Tabor book, being as he's the audience identification figure and all (despite the fact that he isn't very smart or pleasant). He gets to do most of the running, jumping, shooting, and killing, while leaving Lincoln to do the legwork. Kind of unfair, if you ask me. DEADLY MASSAGE isn't even as violent or as sleazy as you hope. Cruz does put two of the officers inside a nasty snake temple near the end, but he doesn't really pay it off well. The main villain, whose identity I won't reveal, even though you'll figure it out long before the final chapter, is disappointingly dispatched off-page.

The cover calls it "breathless, nail-biting action," but you know better once you realize Cruz's book is published by Manor, the low-rent company that also put out Nelson DeMille's equally squalid Keller series. Interestingly, Manor also published a pair of Death Squad books by Dan Streib that sure do read a helluva lot like the Kill Squad. Could Streib also be Mark Cruz? The cover of Death Squad #2 even looks a lot like a Kill Squad cover, but I imagine Manor commissioned several paintings at once and wanted them in a hurry.


Joe Kenney said...

It's funny, reading your review I can't help but want to read the book, despite your comments of how it doesn't live up to the description or plot. I know exactly what you mean! It's like trying to describe the average Death Merchant novel. I mean, it all sounds awesome -- aliens in the Himalayas or whatever -- but when you actually get down to reading the book it's just a total drag.

Anyway I've never read a Martin Cruz Smith novel, and I don't think I even have any of his books...I do have the similarly-named Death Squad books, though, which you've also read, the ones by Dan Streib. I keep meaning to get around to them.

Anonymous said...

I suppose you're more into misogynist exaggeratedly muscular black guys, then? What makes you think white men would be intimidated by blacks, anyway? Just because this was written in a time where emasculated white self-hatred wasn't the cultural norm? It seems you've sat in one too many liberal arts classes taught by liberal marxist freaks.

Wake up. Insulting white men and idolizing blacks doesn't give you a moral advantage.