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Recent Reviews for John C Stipa


No Greater Sacrifice (Book) - 4/16/2010 9:55:29 AM
There’s good confused, and there’s bad confused. As I read John C. Stipa’s No Greater Sacrifice, I was good confused. If you’ve read any of the Dan Brown novels you know the confused I’m talked about, where the characters leap to the right conclusion time and again when presented with sketchy puzzles while you’re left in the dust. It helps that our heroes are super-hot Renee D’Arcadia, an archeologist running from her leukemia diagnosis and David Arturo, ex-special forces history professor running from his past. They’re good at these puzzles where I would still be trying to figure out the first one. When they are summoned to France for the reading of a will, they are given the first few pieces and thrust into a circle of ne’er-do-wells who, as fate and plot development would have it, are trying to give them just enough rope to hang themselves. As we learn more about our protagonists, we discover that they have met before and the meetings were not necessarily good ones. This time, however, romance blossoms as they must lean on each other to solve the puzzles and find the next clue. A small but strong supporting cast gives them assistance in sorting through the centuries-old mystery. We are dragged along into under-ground caverns, crypts, and cathedrals as the pieces slowly start to fall in place. Stipa’s dialogue is crisp and the pacing of the novel is unrelenting. It bogs slightly as the heroes gather to work through most of the ‘thinky’ parts of the puzzle, then speeds off again once we’re given enough pseudo-history to explain why they’re getting shot at, stabbed, and chased. While the action parts are fast paced and well described, the characters also dive into their emotions and motivations with dialogue such as this: David rocked back and rested on his heels. “People are raised thinking relationships require a certain level of deception, as if it’s some sort of psychological game. And they think it’s normal! We learn the ploys and tricks as early as middle school. Girls play hard to get, boys tease them instead of showing emotion. I never got it. I wasn’t smart enough to keep up with a lie. It was easier to be truthful.” This slow building of sexual tension between Renee and David doesn’t detract from the story. When a misunderstanding temporarily divides them, they (and we) quickly realize that they are much better together as a team. Still, the hook of this book is the action and that is where Stipa’s writing shines. As the heroes close in on their final objective they are being pursued by a killer and we get this description as he climbs across a rope with bleeding hands in chase: Dropping to the ground, he braved a glimpse at the ragged peels of skin and shredded rope mixed with dirt and blood. He dabbed the seeping mess against his trousers. Pulling out his pistol, he stole into the chamber and hid below one of the outer stones. The man and woman were talking, something about a Telesterion. He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer. ‘For the Lord has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.’ Like fog creeping in a cemetery, he moved to the inner circle. Technically, the book was a treat. Well edited with great cover art and some helpful illustrations inside (I would have loved to have even more), it feels like a polished and finished piece. More importantly, I enjoyed the writing and the story of No Greater Sacrifice. Even if most of the history and puzzles left me confused, it was a good confused. The good guys solve the puzzle, prevail over the bad guys, and find each other in the process. In the end, that’s what a good romantic thriller is all about.

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