Author: Leonard Di Gregorio
Title: Red Lips
Genre: Thriller / Action / Adventure
This quick read continues the story of Tom Walker, a sea captain who retired after helping a group of adventurers find buried treasure in the Caribbean. He now only takes charter customers who interest him, which happens to be the case when Suzanne Summerfield enters his life.
Suzanne is looking for her husband, who disappeared in the Caribbean while testing a new boat engine that runs primarily on sea water. Tom isn’t sure if he wants to find the man or not, as he might prefer consoling the widow to a happy ending, but either way, he’s hooked.
The descriptions of what Tom endures are pleasantly clear and full of amusing details, giving a clear idea of how he suffers when his economical rental car turns out to have no air conditioning, for example, or when his budget airline ticket translates to a challenging flight. Overall, the author maintains an easy, light tone that keeps the story moving without taking itself too seriously or adopting any specific messages about life, relationships, or politics.
The characters feel like they could be more complex at times, especially the women, who primarily seem to exist as something for the men to interact with rather than living, breathing adults with their own goals and feelings. This could be influenced by the cast, though, as the story features a group of women who are largely after money or sex, leaving the author with little to work with, yet this might be restructured to create a more nuanced reading experience.
The plot is adventuresome and varied, giving Tom a chance to show what he can and can’t handle, from burly men following him to a neighborhood acquaintance constantly trying to get something started between the two of them. There are moments that feel a bit capricious as Tom goes from one part of his investigation to the next, but this could largely be the result of his personality and manages to not seem too convenient or unlikely.
As the third book in a series, this isn’t designed to be read by itself, as it carries forward plot threads from both the first and second stories. There can be times when it feels like the narration focuses more on these plot components than those intrinsic to this particular story, though, as Tom’s interest in Suzanne or any worries he might have about the outcome of his assignment seem less developed than exploring the ongoing relationship between one of Tom’s friends and her ex-assassin lover, for example.
Those looking for an enjoyable read that balances action and adventure with modern life and what-could-be will enjoy this story. It’s as light and breezy as a vacation to the Caribbean, with a few dark clouds and tossing waves to make things interesting. The search-and-rescue story is punctuated with recipes for a variety of the primarily Mexican dishes Tom eats during the story, including steak fajitas and chicken quesadillas, making this a fun mix of reading-inspired cooking and adventure, likely to leave one satisfied with the plot twists while hungry for something with tortillas, salsa, and sour cream.
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