3 out of 4 stars
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Never Scot-Free: A Stone Ayers Novel, written by JC Norton, is a thriller set in San Francisco. The protagonist, Stone Ayers, is the focal point of the book; he is an attractive thirty-three-year-old ex-military who served in Afghanistan. Stone now works for Dominic Balducci, a successful businessman involved in illegal activities, as an all-purpose fixer and henchman. The suspenseful plot unfolds as Dominic suspects that his brother-in-law, Peter DelBino, is stealing from him. If this proves to be the case, Peter’s punishment could be death, and Stone would be the one to carry out the dirty deed. But this is as far as I can go without giving away spoilers.
What I liked the most about this novel was its character development. The author developed the main character very well. Stone is a multidimensional and ambivalent hero, the kind that makes readers question their moral values. Throughout the book, I kept asking myself if he was a hero or a villain. He does, after all, kill people. But Stone is not a bad guy; he is smart, traveled, and charming. Although his job description involves killing people, he does it skillfully and charmingly. The protagonist lives a comfortable life and gets well-paid for his services. He usually feels no remorse for taking out the people he targets, for he believes they aren’t worthy. He does feel bad about not telling his girlfriend, Gudrun Weimar, the truth, though.
Another noteworthy positive was that San Francisco was more than a setting in this story. The author masterfully works with its distinctive features, making them an integral part of the narrative. For instance, “the elegant span of the Golden Gate Bridge was visible from the Marin side all the way to the Presidio.”
On the other hand, I felt that some of the author’s descriptions of Stone’s physical prowess were a bit over the top. For instance, “He pulled up his tank top and studied his abs, satisfied with their size and definition, the thick oblique muscles forming beautiful curves as they framed his lower abdomen.” These descriptions felt overdone and detracted from the novel’s overall quality. This aspect was what I disliked the most, making me take a star away from the rating.
Thus, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. I’m not giving it the highest rating due to the over-the-top descriptions previously explained. Otherwise, it is an entertaining and well-structured novel that seems professionally edited, and I recommend it to fans of crime thrillers. On account of its adult themes and profane language, I wouldn’t recommend it to younger audiences.
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