Reviews of the Risk Agent series

White Bone

“Nobody is more consistent in penning well-conceived and compulsively readable tales than Ridley Pearson. But his latest, “White Bone,” takes a gut-wrenching and personal turn in a truly thrilling direction…”

Providence Journal

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Nobody is more consistent in penning well-conceived and compulsively readable tales than Ridley Pearson. But his latest, “White Bone,” takes a gut-wrenching and personal turn in a truly thrilling direction, elevating Pearson to the level of John le Carré and Frederick Forsyth.

This time out, the action plunges international security specialists John Knox and Grace Chu into the chaos of a Kenya riddled by war and terrorism to deal with the hot-button issue of animal poaching — elephants, tragically, to reap the ivory of their tusks. That means navigating a minefield of corruption and double-dealing that leaves Chu fighting for her life in bush country and Knox battling a literal army of savage fighters to save her.

In the tradition of Richard North Patterson taking on gun violence and human-rights abuses, Pearson has crafted a relentlessly suspenseful international thriller that’s as entertaining as it is meaningful. A rare combination that helps make “White Bone” a can’t miss read.

Jon Land, Special to the Journal

“Series fans will appreciate the deeper exploration of John’s and Grace’s characters as they reconcile their feelings for each other. Another perfectly calibrated installment in Pearson’s thriller world tour…”

Booklist

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When John Knox (The Red Room, 2014) receives a disturbing cryptic message from Grace Chu, his frequent partner in missions for Rutherford Risk, he heads for Kenya. In Nairobi, he finds that Grace has been missing for days. Knox is certain that Grace, an expert forensic accountant and hacker, was outed as she traced missing money linked to stolen vaccines. It doesn’t bode well that John is trailed by state operatives, and when he traces Grace’s investigation from Nairobi’s posh hotels to Kibera’s slums, he finds links to ivory poaching and Somali terrorist groups. Meanwhile, Grace has been left for dead in the bush and is using her Red Army training, lessons from her Masai guide, and newfound feral instincts to survive. Series fans will appreciate the deeper exploration of John’s and Grace’s characters as they reconcile their feelings for each other. Another perfectly calibrated installment in Pearson’s thriller world tour (with earlier stops in Shanghai, Amsterdam, and Istanbul); puzzling clues and immersive, full-sensory descriptions of Kenya balance cutthroat international criminal networks and teeth-clenching firefights.

“Pearson’s stirring fourth thriller featuring Rutherford Risk agents Grace Chu and John Knox…highlights the very real threat of extinction faced by Kenya’s magnificent wildlife.”

Publishers Weekly

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In Pearson’s stirring fourth thriller featuring Rutherford Risk agents Grace Chu and John Knox (after 2014’s The Red Room), Graham Winston, a British client of Rutherford Risk, sends Chu to Kenya to investigate the theft of a large quantity of measles vaccine that he donated to a clinic. When Knox receives a coded text from Chu indicating that she’s in trouble, he heads to Kenya, where he encounters rampant corruption among local officials and police, ruthless gangs of poachers (smuggling elephant ivory and rhino horn), and vigilante game protectors. Meanwhile, someone attacks Chu, drugs her, and dumps her in bush country, where her presumed death will appear accidental. In his search for Chu, to whom he’s grown increasingly close, Knox has only questionable allies such as Bishoppe, an irrepressible youth who latched on to him upon his arrival at the Nairobi airport. Amid all the turmoil, Pearson highlights the very real threat of extinction faced by Kenya’s magnificent wildlife.

“This crackling adventure doubles as a survival guide for your next trip to the striking, endangered landscape of East Africa.”

Kirkus

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The improbable stars of Rutherford Risk tangle with murderous ivory poachers and warring local cops, rangers, and strongmen in Nairobi and the even wilder Kenyan countryside. Nobody ever told Grace Chu that the only field even less exciting than insurance was accounting. Now she’s flown to Kenya in search of a missing $1 million belonging to Rutherford client Graham Winston and she’s disappeared herself, setting hearts aflutter back in England—especially that of John Knox, the independent contractor whose earlier adventures with Grace (The Red Room, 2014, etc.) have never quite blossomed into love. Following Grace’s trail to Nairobi, Knox promptly runs afoul of the authorities and is soon sought for killing a police officer. His only allies are incorruptible cop Kanika Alkinyi, conservation activist Travis Brantingham, and Bishoppe, the enterprising 14-year-old to whom he unwillingly entrusts his security and his life. Grace, who’s unmasked a gigantic swindle by dauntingly influential Xin Ha, of Asian Container Consolidated, won’t be easy to find because she’s been abandoned in the bush, far from help or civilization, by Assim Guuleed’s band of poachers, who want her death to look like an accident—unless of course they change their minds and decide to retrieve her once more. Law enforcement hunts Knox, Knox hunts Grace, Guuleed hunts Grace, Grace searches for rescuers and strategies to save herself despite her waning energies and mounting injuries, and in the background, everyone involved searches for elephants to poach or protect. All this would all seem overcomplicated and pointless if canny Pearson didn’t equip each of the parties with unruffled self-conviction and a grab bag of unexpected resources. This crackling adventure doubles as a survival guide for your next trip to the striking, endangered landscape of East Africa.

“White Bone is richly detailed and filled with intrigue that encompasses terrorism, corruption and lingering colonial strains. Its characters are nothing if not passionate, and these passions include the author’s obvious concern for the central problem of elephant poaching. Pearson’s writing is informative and allows his muscular story to take center stage. Series fans will remain committed, and new readers will be drawn in, with no background knowledge necessary to follow this action-packed novel combining the thriller, adventure and mystery genres.”

Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

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Ridley Pearson is known for fast-paced, plot-driven series for adults as well as for children. White Bone is the fourth novel in his Risk Agent series (after The Red Room), starring John Knox and Grace Chu, whose relationship undergoes significant change in this installment.

Knox is an importer/exporter of international arts and crafts, a career that provides him good cover for his clandestine work with Rutherford Risk, an international security firm that specializes in hostage extractions. Grace Chu is a forensic accountant and hacker, and a colleague at Rutherford Risk. As White Bone opens, Knox has received a troubling text message from Grace, just before she goes radio silent. Troubled, he follows her into the field.

Grace was sent into Kenya to track a stolen shipment of donated measles vaccines. The case quickly expands to involve the widespread criminal practice of poaching elephants for their tusks and rhinoceroses for their horns, and possibly the funding of terrorism. Corruption is standard operating procedure in Kenya, so Knox must beware of governmental agents and the police as well as the criminals he is tracking. When he arrives in Nairobi, Grace has been missing for days: he fears her cover has been blown.

Pearson’s plot is complex, watertight and humming with tension. The finest details are realistic and disturbing, and often require at least a moderately strong stomach, as when Grace, stranded alone in the bush, suppresses her usual hygiene habits in favor of survival practices gleaned from a Maasai guide. While the bulk of the story follows Knox, Grace appears both directly and in others’ narratives, posing a character development challenge that Pearson handles deftly. A large cast also includes a disillusioned British journalist, a Somali poacher, a Kenyan vigilante/folk hero, a helpful police officer, an activist lawyer and a resourceful Kenyan boy insistent upon becoming Knox’s right-hand man. Knox follows disparate threads and threats; Grace defends herself against jackals, lions and organized criminals; and the novel’s pace races as her situation worsens.

White Bone is richly detailed and filled with intrigue that encompasses terrorism, corruption and lingering colonial strains. Its characters are nothing if not passionate, and these passions include the author’s obvious concern for the central problem of elephant poaching. Pearson’s writing is informative and allows his muscular story to take center stage. Series fans will remain committed, and new readers will be drawn in, with no background knowledge necessary to follow this action-packed novel combining the thriller, adventure and mystery genres.

“Grace Chu and John Knox, are back on the scene and better than ever… From the intriguing story to the knowledge of the very real issues that are causing the extinction of wildlife in Kenya, the reader gets a great deal from this outstanding adventure.”

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion for Suspense Magazine

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Rutherford Risk agents, Grace Chu and John Knox, are back on the scene and better than ever.

Graham Winston, a British client of Rutherford Risk, sends Chu to Kenya in order to look into the robbery of a large quantity of measles vaccines that he’d donated to a clinic. But it doesn’t take long for John Knox to get a text from Chu indicating that she’s fallen into a great deal of trouble.

Knox heads straight to Kenya where he comes up against out-of-control corruption lurking among local officials; officials who focus on allowing brutal gangs of illegal poachers to smuggle elephant ivory and Rhino horns out of the country.

Attacked and drugged, Chu is dumped into bush country where her death will be made to look accidental. And as Knox follows Grace’s mysterious disappearance, the trail leads him to Nairobi, where he gets entangled with authorities and finds himself being accused of killing a police officer.

As lawmen hunt Knox and poachers work to erase Grace from existence, the two will find themselves in severe danger of never being able to see each other again. And the reader will realize just how close the two have grown over their last four thrillers.

From the intriguing story to the knowledge of the very real issues that are causing the extinction of wildlife in Kenya, the reader gets a great deal from this outstanding adventure.


The Red Room

“This installment is all about impossible escapes and elusive spycraft….Another hit in this knockout thriller series featuring nonstop danger, casually clever descriptions of exotic locales, evolving characterization, and evenhanded sociopolitical commentary. Recommended for every beach bag.”

Booklist

“This book will keep you turning the pages until the very end.”

Suspense Magazine

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In the third entry of his Risk Agent series, Ridley Pearson sends agent John Knox and hacker extraordinaire Grace Chu to one of the most exotic and historic cities in the world—Istanbul.
The Red Room at Rutherford Risk, deep beneath the firm’s headquarters in Hong Kong, is reserved for the most secure meetings. That’s where David “Sarge” Dulwich, Knox’s superior in the firm, takes him to explain the new assignment. Yet according to Dulwich, the job is a simple delivery. In his cover profession as an art dealer, Knox has an Iranian client by the name of Akram Okle, a restaurateur in the Middle East with a pair of Indian-cuisine establishments. Knox has sold him small rarities in the past, but now Dulwich wants Knox to offer him a historic bust worth millions, all to get Knox and Chu into a room with Akram’s brother Mashe for five minutes.
In spite of Dulwich’s assurances, it’s not long before the assignment veers off into dangerous, even deadly country. Getting the bust to Istanbul gets Knox involved with Victoria, a Jordanian gallery owner who has a relationship with Akram and Mashe and who wants a cut of the action. Grace finds that Mashe is a cypher, with his background hidden by the Iranian government. It soon develops that many players are interested in this transaction.
Knox and Grace find themselves racing through the many neighborhoods of Istanbul, trying to stay ahead of those hunting for them while they seek to solve the mystery of their assignment. As they delve deeper, they come to suspect everything they’ve been told, and with that suspicion comes the uneasy knowledge that they may be pawns to be sacrificed in a larger game.
Istanbul comes alive in Pearson’s prose, capturing its multiple flavors and presenting its fascinating conglomeration of East and West blended through thousands of years of history. Yet he keeps the plot racing along to the climax. This book will keep you turning the pages until the very end.

Reviewed by David Ingram for Suspense Magazine

“…Rubik’s cube of a thriller.”

Kirkus

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A third adventure takes globe-trotting independent contractor John Knox and forensic accountant Grace Chu to Istanbul—and all around, over and beneath this crossroads city as well.

According to David Dulwich, the only thing Rutherford Risk needs is for Knox and Grace to finagle five minutes alone with Mashe Okle, a medical-equipment designer and financier whose restaurateur brother Akram is incurably addicted to antiquities. The enticement will be a bust of Harmodius presumed lost for many years, now duly authenticated and offered to Akram for a small fraction of its estimated $10 million value. As usual (Choke Point, 2013, etc.), Knox thinks the project sounds dubious, and Dulwich’s mantra in response to his questions—“NTK,” for Need to Know—isn’t reassuring. But the medications Knox’s brother and partner back in Michigan needs are so pricey that Knox has little choice. So he signs on and heads for Istanbul, a fascinating, inscrutable city where the one thing that’s clear is that every player in this particular game—Akram, Mashe, gallery owner Victoria Momani, art evaluator Dr. Hassan Adjani and, of course, Dulwich himself—is also playing one of a number of deeper games. Grace is kidnapped; Knox is shot at; and the closer they get to their target, the more elusive he seems. That’s not just because the characters are opaque; it’s because brainy Pearson’s plotting and writing are designed to impress and befuddle the gentle reader, who may feel as overwhelmed as the sorely tried principals.

Filled with bromides about tradecraft—“We don’t know who we’re working for. We don’t know who we’re working against”; “[t]he easy answer is never the right one”; “too many unknowns”—that are all too appropriate to this Rubik’s cube of a thriller.

“Pearson peels away the various layers of deception…”

Publishers Weekly

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Bestseller Pearson’s exciting if complicated third Risk Agent novel (after 2013’s Choke Point) takes security operative John Knox, who’s also an art trader, and his partner, former Chinese government spy Grace Chu, to Istanbul, where they are to perform a simple in-and-out delivery job for David Dulwich, Knox’s pal at the private contracting firm Rutherford Risk. Knox and Chu are to offer the bust of Harmodius, a piece of ancient artwork worth millions, to restaurant owner Akram Okle, who’s acting as middleman for a wealthy brother of his named Mashe. Since Knox needs the money for medicine for his autistic, mentally-challenged brother, he accepts the assignment. To no one’s surprise, the mission turns deadly in Istanbul and proves anything but simple. Readers may want to take notes to keep track of the many countries and secret agents involved as Pearson peels away the various layers of deception before the satisfying denouement.


Choke Point

“Pearson plots resourcefully, and the complications are intelligently varied.”

Kirkus

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Now that they’ve established their credentials in Shanghai (The Risk Agent, 2012, etc.), John Knox and Grace Chu, of Rutherford Risk, go up against a coldblooded sweatshop owner in Amsterdam.

When you have as much money as philanthropist Graham Winston, and maybe political aspirations as well, you can direct your millions at any injustice you see, and what Winston sees, thanks to a blistering newspaper exposé by Sonia Pangarkar, is little girls knotting handmade rugs. Some of the pathetically underage workers, like Maja Sehovic, lead relatively normal second lives as schoolchildren; others, like Berna Ranatunga, are literally chained to their jobs. Winston hires private security firm Rutherford to shut down the knot shop Sonia profiled, and David Dulwich assigns the job to his friend John Knox and forensic accountant Grace Chu. It’s a lucky thing that Winston’s expense account is generous, since pretty much everything that could possibly go wrong does. Sonia would rather sleep with Knox than open up to him or introduce him to her sources, even when those sources ominously begin to disappear. The girls’ parents are no more eager to say anything that might endanger their daughters or compromise themselves. Gerhardt Kreiger, the middleman Knox contacts to put together a fictional purchasing deal that will give Knox more information about where the rugs are made, turns out to be playing a deeper game of his own. So is Chief Inspector Joshua Brower, who Dulwich assured Knox would be a reliable police contact. And whoever is behind the knot shop is cunning, determined and willing to use violence against Knox and Grace and anyone else who gets close to him.

Pearson plots resourcefully, and the complications are intelligently varied. The action is so nonstop, however, that long before the end, many readers will feel as exhausted, if nowhere near as battered, as Grace and Knox.

“Plenty of action and some steamy sex help make the pages fly by.”

Publisher’s Weekly

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In bestseller Pearson’s fine sequel to 2012’s The Risk Agent, philanthropist Graham Winston—who’s famous for supporting causes like Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, and Doctors Without Borders—hires Rutherford Risk, a private security firm, to shut down an illegal Amsterdam rug factory that uses kidnapped girls as forced labor. Risk’s field operations manager, David Dulwich, puts security agent John Knox, who supports “Starbucks and Anheuser-Busch, Victoria’s Secret and Apple,” and Knox’s partner, former forensic accountant and computer expert Grace Chu, on the case. Knox, who’s big and tough, is attracted to Grace, who wants to prove herself as an able field agent, but he’s unsure how she feels about him. They make a good team, with his brawn and her brains, as they fight and kill their way to the top of the child-abuse cabal. Plenty of action and some steamy sex help make the pages fly by.


The Risk Agent

“…interocking webs of deceit and crime on both national and international levels. Thriller fans will look forward to seeing more of Knox.”

Publishers Weekly

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Bestseller Pearson (In Harm’s Way) introduces John Knox, an importer and highly trained security agent based in Shanghai, in this entertaining first in a new action series. Rutherford Risk, a security contracting firm working for the Berthold Group, a construction industry giant, hires Knox to rescue two employees who have been kidnapped. Knox takes the job because he needs the money to support his epileptic, learning-disabled brother, Tommy, and because one of the employees, Clete Danner, is an old pal. He teams with Chinese national Grace Chu, a forensic accountant and former Chinese army intelligence agent, who’s a friend of the other missing man, Lu Hao. As Pearson makes abundantly clear, China is a land of great mystery, so the motives of everyone concerned, including other operatives who are searching for Danner and Lu, are tangled into interlocking webs of deceit and crime on both national and international levels. Thriller fans will look forward to seeing more of Knox.

“The start of a new series; likely big.”

“Versatile bestseller Pearson kicks off an exciting new suspense series with a decidedly international flair.”… “ The pacing is fast and furious and the danger nonstop in this incredible new thriller. Pearson’s definitely got his game on!”

Library Journal

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You have to love the guy. Not only is he the author of 16 best-selling novels, not only is he the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in detective fiction at Oxford University, but he’s a founding member (with Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Greg Iles) of the Rock Bottom Remainders. In his latest, a Chinese national working for an American firm in Shanghai is hustled away by bad guys, along with his security guard and a pile of top-secret papers. Rutherford Risk operative Grace Chua, a forensic accountant, tracks down the money, while colleague John Knox uses his combat expertise‚ a lot‚ as he looks for the hostage. The start of a new series; likely big.

“Exotic locale. Credible heroics. Vicarious thrills. Fans will want more, and soon.”

RT Book Reviews

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Versatile bestseller Pearson kicks off an exciting new suspense series with a decidedly international flair. Pearson takes readers on a roller-coaster ride deep into the world of Chinese business and politics. Kidnappings around the world have become dangerously prevalent and this one personally touches the lives of Pearson’s new protagonists. The pacing is fast and furious and the danger nonstop in this incredible new thriller. Pearson’s definitely got his game on!

“The first in a stunning new international thriller series; suspense readers can get ready for a truly non-stop tale of intrigue.”

Kirkus Reviews

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If you have the right incentives, dollars in the billions can be made in Shanghai, where capitalism wrestles with communism. So says Pearson (In Harm’s Way, 2010, etc.) in this first in a new series of thrillers.

Of course, “incentives” means bribery and overpayment. And that means more business for Rutherford Risk, specializing in corporate security. Now Rutherford has only days to free Lu Hao and Clete Danner, an American who had been surveilling Lu for Rutherford. The ransom is meager, but stakes are high. Lu delivered and accounted for incentives paid by The Bethold Group, an American company building Shanghai’s Xuan Tower, the world’s tallest building. Suspects are plentiful, especially considering entrepreneurs like Yang Cheng were resentful of the American company’s success. With private investigation illegal in China, Rutherford reaches out for John Knox, an import/exporter with a long history as a military contractor, and Grace Chu, an American-educated, Chinese army intelligence veteran who’s currently a Hong Kong forensic accountant. With subplots involving Grace’s muddied love affair with Lu’s brother, Knox’s need to protect his brother and partner, Tommy, who is autistic, and Danner’s shadowy connections, Pearson’s narrative grabs readers and rockets through hundreds of pages of nonstop action laced by violence, double-dealing and shady characters. First, there are the Mongolians, exiles working for a chimerical Bejing bigwig. There’s Shen Deshi, an inspector for the People’s Armed Police, “the Gestapo of China.” Most mysterious is mainland China itself, “an anything-goes market economy layered over a police state.” Knox knows China, but he’s a waiguoren (foreigner), never to be completely familiar with “the complexities of the interwoven social and professional etiquette involving the Chinese.” And then there is guanxi (connections), and that untranslatable matter of “face.” A cunning thriller worthy of the promised series, especially if the fascinating Grace Chu reappears regularly.

Exotic locale. Credible heroics. Vicarious thrills. Fans will want more, and soon.