The Freedom Broker by KJ Howe
Kidnap negotiator Thea Paris has spent her entire life with survivor's guilt, following an unspeakable childhood tragedy. At eight years old, she watched, frozen in fear, as her twelve-year-old brother, Nikos, was abducted from their home in Kanzi, Africa. Although he was recovered nine months later, he was never the same after that; worse, Thea discovers that she was supposed to have been the target. This defining experience drives Thea to become one of the top operatives in the field of kidnap-and-ransom consultancy. Nicknamed "Liberata" because she once secured the release of a captive from the Sicilian mob without her client paying a cent, she travels the globe trying to bring hostages home--mostly through negotiation, but occasionally through more forceful means. She is very good at her job. Twenty years after her brother's abduction, Thea's worst nightmare is revisited when her father, oil magnate Christos Paris, is taken on his sixtieth birthday. He disappears from his yacht while it is moored at Santorini, the ship's whole crew slaughtered mercilessly. Thea immediately calls in her team at Quantum Security International, premier K&R specialists. Following protocol, they break down Christos' life, looking for leads, but the list of enemies and business competitors is endless. Not surprisingly, Christos Paris has imprinted his designer shoe on innumerable backs during his journey to the top of the oil business. And he was abducted only a few days before the biggest deal of his career. From there, the case only gets stranger. Unlike most abductions, there are no ransom demands, no political appeals, no prisoner release requests. Instead, the kidnapper sends foreboding quotes in Latin by text from burner phones. What does the kidnapper want? And most importantly for Thea, will she be able to prevent a second kidnapping from destroying her family for good?
KJ Howe’s debut novel, ‘The Freedom Broker’ was a masterclass in action thriller writing. Books like this are not created without an abundance of knowledge, research and personal experience. The writing reflects all three of these ingredients to more depth than the words on pages reveal. Thea Paris is our heroine, and it is established very quickly that she may be highly trained skilled in recovering kidnap hostages, but she has vulnerability, doubts, and sometimes her judgement can be clouded. Turning the pages we learn about her family, early childhood experiences, and understand what has made her the person she is today. What came across more strongly than any other work I have read with a kidnapping theme is the sheer brutality that hostages may experience in the modern world. Sadly I finished this great novel all too quickly, but I know this is just the beginning and there are many more stories for Thea and other members of her team to tell. How could there be any less than 5 stars for something so well crafted and honed to perfection? I have had a massively exciting and emotional reading experience that has kept me up till the early hours and now I want more. (less)