4 out of 4 stars
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Mining engineer Trace Brandon is back in the latest (mis)adventure novel from Randall Reneau, the Medinandi License. Trace and his friends Will and Gordon are in Mali, West Africa to mine a promising gold vein near the small village of Medinandi. The area is owned by Russians, leased by a Canadian mobster, infiltrated by Al Qaeda operatives, and inhabited by an illegal arms dealer wanted by the Saudis. Other elements that add to the enjoyment of the novel are a potential love triangle and a French pilot who resembles Humphry Bogart. The first part of the novel involves the protagonists working out the logistics of setting up their mining operation. Then a kidnapping forces a change in the plot's direction and the rest of the novel is a thrill ride rescue attempt.
Reneau includes many ironies in this action/adventure story. Israeli weapons are used by radical Muslim terrorists, illegal bribes are required to ensure the safety of one's merchandise in transit, and there comes a time when the French military's only hope can be found in Little Babba, the illegal arms dealer.
The Medinandi License will appeal to people who like reading action/adventure books set in international locales. The plot carries the heroes to Mali, Toronto, Washington state, Algeria, France and the Canary Islands. Geology, firearms and aviation aficionados will also enjoy the book, as there are many credible descriptions of the land, weapons and aircraft used by the heroes as well as the villains.
People who do not care for combat scenes will not like this book. It is a testosterone-fueled adventure that reads like an A-Team or Rambo movie. Everyone knows how to shoot the wide variety of available weapons, and no one ever misses. Even the local Peace Corps director comes from a family with generations of shooting knowledge. The plot unfolds with an all-male cast with the exception of the two love interests, an elderly restaurant owner and bikini-clad women at the hotel swimming pool. This is not chick lit.
What Reneau does well in the novel is to present the differences between urban and rural West Africa. So often this part of the world is assumed to be only jungle or savannah. Reneau paints a portrait that shows Malian city life as well as the outback. Without including spoilers, I would like to see a different ending to the story; it seems abrupt.
I read this book in pdf format, and it is not at first apparent how to increase the small font size. There are only a handful of grammatical errors, not enough to be distracting. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Readers who enjoy this book will also enjoy Reneau's four other Trace Brandon novels.
The Medinandi License
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