Tuesday 26 June 2012

Book review : GOTU - Mike McNeff

I was slightly perturbed when I plucked this Robin Marlette novel off my "to be reviewed" bookshelf because I kept wondering how to pronounce the title. I spent the first few chapters saying "go to" before discovering that it stands for Guardians of the Universe and should be read "got you", because that is exactly what the elite team of "guardians" do when they set out to get the bad guys.

Sergeant Robin Marlette, the central character, is the leader of a special narcotics squad who target the drug overlords and couriers working around the Mexican border. It's fascinating to see how drug running, serious crime, police corruption and even international terrorism are often intrinsically linked so Marlette and his team are never short of action. Frequently working on the extreme limit of legality, these are tough cops who need to match the ruthlessness of the bad guys they're trying to catch. Putting their life on the line is their job and they do it to protect their country, but when some of the criminals set their sights on Marlette's own family, things get personal.

Imagine a cross between a Boy's Own adventure comic and a high octane Hollywood shoot-'em-up and you'll have a rough idea of the atmosphere. It's action-packed, fast-paced and - had it been a movie - would have required a large budget for all the fake blood, so male readers will be in their element. That's not to say that women won't enjoy it though. I certainly did, and it even has a few surprisingly well-written romantic moments thrown in for good measure ! Marlette may be a bad-ass, gun-toting cop but he is also a family man and his wife and kids keep him grounded, as well as turning him into a character we can empathise with much more easily.

What really makes the novel stand out from the crowd though is the author. Mike McNeff is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement (now retired) and attorney who has led SWAT-teams and drug task force operations, served as a prosecutor and trained drug enforcement agents. This insider view really comes through in his writing. You can always tell when an author has put in the background work and thoroughly researched his writing and you can't get much better than 40 years' personal experience to really know your subject matter ! This adds gritty realism to the novel and avoids those "that would never happen" moments that you sometimes get and that detract from fully engaging with the novel and its characters.

Mike is currently writing the sequel to GOTU, along with two other novels about law enforcement and a non-fiction book about law enforcement for writers. Wow, that's a lot of writing ! The closing chapter of GOTU suggests a new (but equally dangerous and action-packed) beginning for Marlette so I'll definitely look out for the sequel to see what happens to him and his team.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.25

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Booktrope Editions (6 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935961381
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935961383

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

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