Tuesday, July 30, 2013
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.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
In VOYAGE OF DEATH, which was author Mark Cruz's second Kill Squad novel, the squad goes undercover on a cruise ship to find out who is smuggling drugs in from Mexico by hiding them inside a stolen life preserver and tossing it over the side to be collected later by the American importers. Tabor, who seems more occupied with chasing women than finding the smugglers, manages to do both when it appears the mousy librarian he picked up, Winifred Lundy, may be involved.
Very little backstory is revealed in VOYAGE OF DEATH, beyond that Tabor is kind of a dick and he and Alvarez have a casual sex thing going. Cruz' plotting and dialogue are along the lines of a typical TV-movie from the period, and it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine this book as a MOD SQUAD. The shortage of suspects makes the mystery element moot, but Cruz manages to pick up the excitement in his action sequences, which include a hanggliding gone awry and a shootout in a Mexican courtyard. Not a bad book at all, but nothing special either.