White Jade – a Project Novel – Alex Lukeman
Reviewers: She Said – Gloria Lakritz / He Said – Andrew Valentine
Other than bad memories of Afghanistan, former Recon Marine Nicholas Carter thought he’d left combat behind when he joined an elite counter-terrorism unit called the Project. After all, Washington isn’t much like Kabul. But when a two thousand year old book about the First Chinese Emperor and the secret of immortality goes missing, he’s right back in the thick of it.
Selena Connor is an expert in martial arts and ancient languages, but she’s never been trained to shoot back when someone’s trying to kill her. Suddenly she’s thrown into Nick’s dangerous world. From the gold country of California to the hidden places of Tibet, someone’s out to take down America – and Nick and Selena are right in the line of fire.
Review by Gloria Lakritz
Senior Reviewer and Review Chair for the Paranormal Romance Guild
I had heard about Alex Lukeman’s book White Jade prior to having his submission request come to the PRG Review Team. I was also delighted to be challenged to do the story as a Dual Review. To make it even more appealing, the next Dual Review was slated to have a Guest Dueler, for a change of pace for your reading enjoyment. So here I am writing this review, and so is Andrew Valentine, writer of Bitter Things, as my Siskel to his Ebert or the other way around.
When I began White Jade, I could see this was going to take me to places I loved. Murder, foreign intrigue, FBI, CIA, plots and plenty of action.
Elizabeth Harker is in charge of a group called Project. She works within the levels of the FBI and CIA and Homeland Security, with technology at her hands to analyze threats to our country. She is a woman who has a voice to the President.
William Connor was a very rich man who was tortured and killed, his home ransacked, and there was a transfer of 4 million dollars from his accounts to accounts in China. He was a personal friend of the President. Project was asked to look into this.
Elizabeth Harker has contacted Nicholas Carter to come to her office. He is recently back from Afghanistan, dealing with emotional issues from his last mission, and the loss of his fiancé, which has changed his view on life. Upon hearing of the way Connors was killed, ‘it became personal, and Nick needed personal cause God and country wasn’t working for him anymore’
Enter Dr. Selena Connor, attractive, in her thirties, PhD in oriental and ancient language, niece to the deceased. Harker tells her that they feel her Uncle was killed for a book he had acquired in Bhutan. Selena reveals it is a copy of an ancient text about immortality. She has no idea where it is, but after further investigation on her Uncles laptop, a letter to her tells them where the book is possibly hidden.
This is where our story unfolds. Mr Lukeman has done a wonderful job of introducing the reader to all the players. We are in San Francisco, China, and back switching scenery from one part of the globe to the other. The intrigue, the lust for power, the thrill of the hunt, all add to the beauty of the ruins I could see, the fear in the tunnels I could taste, and the miracle of finding artifacts untouched by man for centuries. Yes, it truly was Indiana Jones meets 007.
The story was well described and points well documented. I love a thriller where the good guys are so good and the bad guys are unredeemable. The quest for POWER makes this story come to life and we always pray the good guys win. I do not want to add any more to the story, as **Spoilers** are a no no with my reviews. So with the weather getting cooler, if you had the idea of curling up with a good Mystery/ Thriller, White Jade would be a good bet.
I might also add as I read this story, ideas kept forming in my mind as to who would play the bad guys, of course I had already picked who I envisioned to play Selena and Nick on the Big Screen. Kate Hudson would be a good Selena and Alex O’Louglin from Hawaii Five- O would be a wonderful Nick. How about Kathy Bates for Elizabeth Harker??? Hmmm anyone looking for a great screen play?
Mr Lukeman has graciously sent on to me the next book in this series called The Lance, which I will put on my personal TBR pile and review for you at a later date…
Review by Andrew Valentine
Guest Reviewer and Board Member for the Paranormal Romance Guild
At the heart of Alex Lukeman’s debut thriller, White Jade, is a two-thousand year old book once belonging to the first Chinese emperor, supposedly containing the elixir of immortality. Fanning out from this central piece of intriguing archeology is a web of deceit and murder, stretching across the United States, to China, to Tibet, tangling counter-terrorism operative Nick Carter in its coils.
Nick is assigned to assist and protect Selena Connor, a beautiful, strong and skilled linguist who is interpreting the book’s ancient language. Without divulging some of the twists and unexpected plot elements, the ingredients to this elixir have a very tangible use in modern warfare; if they make it into the wrong hands, such as the evil rogue General Yang of China, the balance of power in China could shift, and the effects in the United States could be catastrophic.
Against this backdrop of international intrigue, terrorist acts and the threat of nuclear war, is the powerful and engaging relationship of the main characters. Nick Carter is taciturn and tough with a dark history; his scars from his tours in Afghanistan, both emotional and physical, give him a complexity not often found in thrillers. The scenes between he and Selena are powerful, if expected. The best of them may be when Nick instructs Selena in the proper use of some serious firepower; Lukeman eschews the flirtation and brimming sexuality that seems to invariably arise in books like this whenever a man and woman talk quietly over a gun. Instead, the author opts to imbue this scene with real emotion that catapults White Jade to a much higher level of the genre.
The jacket cover says this is the first book in the PROJECT series. The PROJECT is the fictional president’s brainchild, a smaller, leaner intelligence agency that reports directly to him. Today’s thriller landscape is replete with similar organizations, like Robert Ludlum’s and Gayle Lynd’s Covert One series, James Rollins’ Sigma Force and Steve Berry’s Magellan-Billet to name a few, but Lukeman’s entry comes across as realistic and convincing.
The author’s tight, terse prose is muscular and punchy; it reads like Hemmingway filtered through Vince Flynn. It’s deceptively simple and a joy to read, because it so perfectly fits the character of Nick Carter.
Pet Peeves and Nit-Picky Complaints: The page numbers begin too soon on the paperback copy; the title page appears on the left hand side instead of the right; and the chapters begin at the top of the page instead of in the middle. While a little disconcerting, these things ultimately don’t take away from the enjoyment of the book.
Both Lukeman and White Jade clearly deserve a dedicated small press or a mass market publisher, because as this debut shows, Alex Lukeman is a powerful, new voice in thriller fiction, and should have legions of fans. This reviewer is one of them.
Now that the reviewers have read each other’s thoughts…
Hi PRG Readers. We have taken this opportunity to have a Special Guest Reviewer read and review Alex Lukeman’s newest thriller White Jade. My Dualing partner is Andrew Valentine, PRG Board Member and Author of Bitter Things. I am so excited to welcome him here, and finally show him and you readers AGAIN, “when a book has merit, there is no Dueling”. Andrew, both of us giving 5*****star ratings, shows that we both totally enjoyed Mr Lukeman’s story. The tempo, the facts, the history and descriptions all were a credit to his ability to put together these characters and mold them into the people and the story which just took off. How did you feel?
I read your review! It was great-very conversational. I love the way you summarize the plots in your reviews. I also like the flights of fancy: who would play who if this was a movie. I didn’t see Kathy Bates as Elizabeth Harker, I was thinking of a woman who could be more like a typical “soccer mom” (as Alex described her), so maybe… Kristen Nelson who plays Chief Karen Vick on the TV show, Psyche.
Thank you for the compliment. I cringe comparing your professionally written review to mine, since in it I am wondering what hunk would be play Nick in the movie version. I agree Elizabeth Harker might not be a Kathy Bates kinda girl, but her strength, tenacity and job at the Project made me think of Ms. Bates.
I must also mention about your Pet Peeves and Nit Picky Complaints…You, as an author, might see these things, but I as a reader never noticed issues like page numbers etc. Gotta say, possibly many readers wouldn’t either. But as you so aptly mentioned, Alex Lukeman deserves to be published by someone other than himself, a publisher who would take care of these issues while he sits and eats bon-bons, and writes more of this series. Guess what Andrew Valentine??? I have the The Lance, the next in this series sitting by my elbow. Would you like to meet me again to Duel it out again? (said the spider to the fly?)
I don’t know if anyone else would notice that nitpicky stuff, but that’s why it’s nitpicky. I don’t know G, I don’t see Alex Lukeman as the bon-bon eating type. Maybe a tipping-back-a-Guinness-type instead. In which case, we should probably meet him in person. Since we both gave him 5 stars, maybe he can get the first round. Spider to the fly? Just which one of us is who? Boo-hoo-wah-ha-ha-ha!
Who is who? I’ll never tell… Do you wish to continue with The Lance? Or are you a one shot Reviewer?
I actually have two nightstands in my bedroom, so I guess I’m not really a one nightstand kinda guy. OK, that joke didn’t really work out, I was playing with the idea that my books are on my nightstand, and, well… Can’t always be funny. But in any case, yes, please send me The Lance. I’d be delighted to review it for the PRG!
Hope you all enjoyed the Andrew/Gloria Hour. See you in December for our next confrontation Dual Review of The Lance!