The King of Tides by James Swain is two pleasing detective stories in one. Hero Jon Lancaster is a detective physically unlike most readers meet. How many heroes appear physically fat? Jon’s stomach, which several female characters in the story seem compelled to touch, is the result of some sort of physical condition. His stomach only looks fat as it enters a room slightly in advance of Jon. It is actually hard in the way that indicates lots of physical training, logical for an ex-Navy SEAL. This tells us that Jon will get into a lot of physical fight action which he will win. This is because opponents will underestimate him due to the stomach and because Jon is an all-around badass in general. If miscreants had been female and taken advantage of stomach fondling, they probably would not have called him out.
There is a minor checklist to go through for novels of this type. Ex-Navy Seal, check. Superior fighting skills, check. Ex-Navy Seal because on his last covert mission he had killed a child because he had to before the kid blew up a strapped-on bomb, check. Quit out of remorse for killing a kid, check. Became a cop, check. (After military retirement, this is almost a cliché. This is the only element I have also experienced). Took early retirement and went into private practice, check. Has a crew of ex-Navy Seals that work for him, completing the full-service menu of physical superiority and general badassedness, check. And somewhere there is always a computer hacker with above-everyone-else-in-the-world skills, check. If the computer hacker is not one of our friends from the past, Jon will refer to a nasty underworld figure who can be converted to a good Samaritan for a little bit. Check.
If the novel only had these elements it could still be good, but there is more that makes it superior. Jon doesn’t actually need money because of military and law enforcement pensions, so he is free to run around and pick interesting, hard-to-solve cases that law enforcement can’t possibly solve due to those nasty probable cause and due process laws that clutter a legal system. Jon operates outside the law while not trying to get in the law’s face. His cases come to him by word-of-mouth from satisfied clients living happy lives in anonymity. He doesn’t accept money in cash but tells clients what they can buy for him. Of course, he reports everything as gains on his tax returns. He will not get into the law’s face. Jon explains his hire for barter scheme as a way to fondly remember clients. Every time he opens his refrigerator for a beer, rarely because he is not an alcoholic, he will think of pedophiles. What? Now, this is a bit different. (Not being an alcoholic).
This novel has distinguishing elements that allow it to pull away from the pack of stereotypes. There is the feature that Jon is working on two separate challenging cases in this novel; one of them he is managing by remote control. That’s where the cool computer stuff comes in. As the novel opens, Dr. Nolan Pearl is interviewing Jon about private work he needs to be done. More than eight men are stalking his daughter at all times of the day and night and it feels creepy. Jon also feels creepy to Pearl because he is running on caffeine, has been up for more than 72 hours, is fat and disheveled, and generally does not inspire confidence. Pearl has pretty much decided to not hire Jon. And Jon, being the badass he is, doesn’t care. But he gives Pearl a chance to reconsider by explaining that even as the interview is going on in Pearl’s home, he is managing his crew in Melbourne (two hours away) as they narrow their search and are about to rescue a kidnapped girl. Jon is remotely directing his crew and watching their progress through Google apps. This first case will get solved at about the 10% point on Kindle; it is entertaining all by itself and I don’t want to report a spoiler ending. At the same time, Jon is directing his crew a few hours away, he gets into a gun battle with the stalkers of Pearl’s daughter. This raises his credibility with the Pearl family so he is grudgingly hired and we can proceed with the main story, one involving some nasty pedophilia stuff.
Swain presents the pedophilia element with bare minimum sexually suggestive language. No trigger warning is necessary. There is nothing in this novel that should offend the reader. Undiscovered pedophiles might start worrying at the effectiveness of Jon and later confederate FBI agent Daniels. The only sexual elements that might be offensive will occur in a reader’s mind and who can know what those imaginings are?
This is a fast-paced thriller which has lots of elements of realism. Sure, all things that happen to Jon don’t happen to normal rogue ex-cop, ex-military investigators but all of the elements could happen, just not in the aggregate. I gave this five stars for action, dialogue, realistic scenes, and some good character development. I didn’t like Jon’s character so much, but FBI agent Daniel’s character was well done. It is worth reading James Swain’s Amazon Author page. By itself, it should encourage readers to try his novels. After reading this one, I am a fan/follower of this author.