Book Review: “Guardian of Lies” by Steve Martini

Rating:  4 WaterTowers (Martini rocks!)

Genre: Legal Thriller

Steve Martini is one of my all time favorite authors, so as soon as I saw “Guardian of Lies” in Costco, I snapped it up.  If I were to summarize my review  in one word:  Amazing!

“To the concrete cowboys, the Mexicutioner was not only real, they knew him by a different name for the soundless way he took his victims, and always at night.  He was like the mountain of water rising from the darkness, washing his victim from a tranquil beach, a kind of unexpected, rough wave–muerte liquida, “liquid death””.

Liquida is stalking his next victim.

Emerson Pike is a rare coin and precious metals investor…..with a murky past.  Katia Solaz-Nitikin is a beautiful young woman of Costa Rican decent staying with Emerson near San Diego and, although Katia is not treated badly, she cannot leave of her own free will.  Emerson has chosen to keep company with Katia for a reason, and that reason is about to bring Liquida into his life.

Emerson spotted Katia on a modeling web site and hired her for a marketing campaign to promote his business.  He  is also, for some reason, very interested in Katia’s family, and has become obsessed with some photographs Katia showed him of her mothers trip to Columbia to see relatives.  In that picture there are several people in a heated discsussion one of which is an old man wearing an old army jacket.   Emerson sees something in the pictures that he tries to magnify with software, but, failing that sends the pictures, via email, to a photo enhancement firm, Herrington Labs.

A few days before, Katia was shopping for food for a party when she met, by chance, Paul Madriaini.  After chatting for awhile, Paul gave Katia his card and a pen with his firms name and address on it.  If she ever needed legal advice, he would be more than happy to help.

This night, the party is over, and Katia has plans to escape from Emerson and return to Costa Rica.  When Emerson goes in to the shower, to counteract the drowsiness he is experiencing,  Katia puts her plan into motion.   She grabs her stuff, grabs Emerson’s cell phone (so she can call a cab when she is away from the house) and some gold coins so she can pay her way to Costa Rica.  She leaves a note for Emerson not to follow her, and flees out the garage door, thru the front gate and up into the dark section of the street.

Unbeknownst to Katia, Liquida has entered the house, killed the maid, and is  looking for Katia and Emerson. He finds Emerson, fresh out of the shower, and wastes no time sticking a knife in his kidney and up to his heart helping him die a painful, bloody, death.

The scene is now set for Paul Madriani, Harry Hinds, and their investigator, Herman Diggs to get involved. The evidence the police (and Federal agents) are gathering is pointing toward Madriani as Katia’s assistant in the killing (remember the business card and pen?).

But there is more.  The folks in the photographs are not all relatives…some of them are known terrorists who may be planning an attack of the highest magnitude on the the United States.

Katia’s grandfather is the old man in the pictures, Yakov Nitikin . Many years ago, he deserted from the Russian Army in Cuba with a “gun type” tactical nuclear weapon. This weapon has a yield that could completely destroy life and property in a two to three mile radius. For the past 40 years Yakov has been taking care of that weapon in the jungles of Columbia and now is the time, working with Al Queda operative Alim Afundi, to use it.

With jail time looming, and the Federal Government becoming involved in the hunt,  Paul and Herman leave Harry in charge at home, and rush off to Costa Rica to discover the truth of who killed Emerson and why.  And, in the process, try to save the United States from it’s worst terrorist attack ever.  Will they succeed?  You will just have to read “Guardian of Lies” to find out.  🙂

I’ve said this before and I repeat:  Steve Martini is a master.

He has, in the first 38 pages of  “Guardian of Lies”, deftly laid the foundation for the rest of the book.  Nearly every piece of evidence and every complex nuance that comes out later in the book was introduced in those first 38 pages.   As the pieces come together, you come to the realization that Martini is one of the great thriller writers of today…or ever.

As you may know, one year I tracked down some of the locations in the Madriani series of books while on business travel in San Diego. You may not know that I was stationed at NAS North Island in the Navy for a few months as well. So the settings of the books in the San Diego and Coronado areas bring back wonderful memories of times past when life was so much simpler (and I was so much younger).

Here is a picture of Miguels Cantina mentioned in the book.  As you read “Guardian of Lies” come back here to see what it looks like.

Miguel’s Cantina, San Diego, CA

If you want to read the Madriani series from the beginning, start with “Compelling Evidence”.


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