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Reviewed by Alex Ndirangu for Readers' Favorite
We tend to bury our unpleasant pasts for a better present and future. But what if your dreadful past caught up with you, and you had no choice but to face it head-on? Vital Response, a novella by Maxwell Cross, leads us through a unique mash-up thriller about a man whose hard-earned life is suddenly dragged to a standstill after he starts receiving strange messages. After leaving the service several years ago, Jefferson McCoy now works as a construction project manager. One morning, Jeff receives a strange message: "Hey call me. No love and a bomb goes off. Peace." Initially, Jeff thinks it's a prank meant for someone else because the message is from an unknown sender. But it's not. Every question answered wrong, or the slightest reluctance to find out what the sender wants is met with a deafening boom as a bomb goes off from somewhere across the city. The bomber wants something in the pieces of the past that Jeff is not ready to bring to light. What could have brought McCoy into the bomber's sights?
You won't be able to put this fast-paced book down. There is an ideal balance of mystery and action, and the tension ramps up page by page until it becomes impossible to know who to trust. The revelation that even the good guys in the story had to move within shadows that the law could not infiltrate had me on the edge of my seat, trying to work out if Jeff was the victim or a master outlaw in disguise. What I appreciated the most about Vital Response was the author's tremendous inventiveness in developing his cast and plot. The antagonists are also very well-developed. They are vicious, and crafty, and threaten Jeff and the city's security, and thanks to the author's superb work, their appearance and objectives are quite convincing. Readers who enjoy adrenaline-packed action will find plenty here. The action sequences are fast-paced and extensively described. You can visualize Jeff's Ranger cutting through the traffic while in hot pursuit of a sedan zooming down the street at breakneck speed. Cross delivers an unnerving combination of thrills and creeping dread in Vital Response. I was utterly engrossed, and anyone seeking a gripping yet not-so-long read will find it unputdownable. An astonishingly good debut!