Middle Man: David Rich
Dan Waters was everything his son Rollie wants to be. Living up to his memory and following in his path keeps him centered and focused. Thinking back to what his father was engaged in at the time of his death allows readers to understand their relationship and why Rollie has agreed to join an elite covert group called the SHADE (Shared Defense Executive.) Created by the military he is recruited to complete what his father started. Grave robbers often steal bodies for the gold in their teeth, the silver from cavities or for body parts. Imagine stashing money inside a coffin and burying it so deep you hope no one finds it until the right time.
Rollie Waters presents the facts, the details and the events as they happen in his own words in a crisp, clear and concise manner making it easy for readers to follow his line of thought. Saddam Hussein might be gone but his memory and deeds linger far and wide in the present as a fund or stockpile of cash stolen from him during the second Iraq War has been buried within these coffins and graves and Rollie has been engaged to find it.
As the story begins we meet Rollie as he enters a bar and hopes to elicit information from its owner. The banter goes back and forth neither side wanting to give an inch. When he finally thinks the person is cooperating someone close by just might change it all. The request he makes, the instructions he gives results in the unexpected. When faced with the outcome Rollie is taken into custody and hopefully can stall until the right person arrives to bail him out. Every step of the way we hear his voice as he flashes back to something that happened with his father, an incident that mirrors what is about to happen in the present. Dan is forever with him in mind, spirit and heart. Meeting with Major Hensel, he is enlightened as to his role, where he will be headed and how they hope he will uncover where the missing graves are and the money. Taking on the role of a rich and wealthy investment banker named Robert Hewitt, he will travel from Houston to Erbil, Iraq and meet with the self-proclaimed King of Kurdistan. As we learn more about the assignment the author creatively flashes back to his tour in Afghanistan, his discussions with his father who was killed. Dan Waters was a first rate con artist and suspected of trying to steal exactly what he is hoping to find. Imagine taking the bodies of dead military men and replacing them with money. But, Rollie faces snipers, betrayals from those he thought he could trust and is enlisted to find and capture the mastermind or puppet master. Every step of the way you can tell that Rollie is trying to model himself after his father and the fact that he was killed trying to steal 25 million dollars when coming across this conspiracy, fuels his energies even more. What is the military was involved? What if they are closely aligned with this self-proclaimed king? What is they were the ones who destroyed Rollie and his general while in Afghanistan?
Learning more about his new role we meet two women that will dominate his time, entice him in many ways and one who claims to be the daughter of the King of Kurdistan and hopes he will align himself with her father. The second is a puzzle and her role yet to be revealed as Rollie goes deep inside mind of the Kurds, hears his father’s voice instructing him about how to proceed, the questions to ask and the persona to portray.
Some appear to be illusions, other pretend to be someone they are not and Rollie has yet to decide whom he can trust. Speaking with Will Panos he discusses where he is, finding the shooters and the government of Kurdistan. Meeting the King’s daughter would enlighten him to what the self-proclaimed king needed in funds. Hoping to lure investors and knowing he was hungry for cash made him a prime target for what Rollie had in mind.
Smart, sharp, never yielding to pressure he meets with the King and his minions to learn that his daughter has been kidnapped and he hopes Rollie will supply the funds to have her released. Finding out more about where she might be held with the help of someone provided by the Major and then dealing with the kidnappers Rollie proves to be more than just a member of SHADE. Pursuing the kidnappers he winds up drugged, beaten and down money as they help themselves to what he was supposed to give them. A Welshman named Bannion is the alleged kidnapper of the king’s daughter and the end result leads to more bodies, injuries and betrayals. Why negotiate with his daughter’s ex-husband? Why even consider a partnership? Someone betrayed him and told Bannion he was coming for Maya and the end result still remains to be seen. Allying himself with the Kongra-Gel would hopefully get him the answers he wanted but would it?
Enter or reenter the FBI holding a slip of paper letting him know that the grave was attacked and that it was linked to the dead bar owner, Fran Godwin. Rollie lets readers know that this is one grave that he thought was wrong. Each time he is stumped his father’s voice comes through loud and clear hoping to tell him what to do next and where he should go. Another story, a reference to plan and along with the King’s security man Rollie hoped to find the graves, the money and the puppet master.
Once again the author flashes back to when Rollie was a Marine, his dealings with a drug dealer, working in the poppy fields and reverting to the present. A man with millions who caused the death of many yet no one interfered with his poppy business and no one stopped this man. Coming into the present dealing with a man named Victor Koinski, telling him he wants to go into partnership with him and the lies and betrayals continue.
Dealing with Bannion he finds Maya as Dan’s voice is heard loud and clear as he tries to instruct Rollie as to his next move. Retired generals were working for his man and just how connected to the King and will he find the graves has not been revealed. With the King back in Erbil, pleased about the situation or was it for the sake of appearances. Telling everyone that their first hurdle is the Regional Government. Some want a separate Kurdistan, united and free and are allies of the King. But, how will they combat as he states, “ the concept of a government subservient to Baghdad?” As the King states another concern that of the PKK and his reason for wanting Rollie/Robert Hewitt on his team. Alliances change, Bannion’s secret revealed and once again Rollie faces off with another adversary but not quite the same this time. An attempted coup as the Self-proclaimed King tries to take over the country, gunshots are fired, Rollie is once again captured and the end result allows readers to know that trust comes with a high price. Just what did Bannion really want and did he really want to take over Kurdistan? What lies did he tell the generals and military men who aligned themselves with him? Where is the money from the graves? What happens next will definitely surprise the reader as the situation is summed up, the real prize that Rollie delivered to the puppet master, the fake assassination plot on the Prime Minister and just who is the fall guy and why?
An explosive ending you won’t expect and the truth behind where the money was hidden revealed but there is much more as Rollie is once again questioned, detained and assumed guilty of undoing what the CIA was working on. Did he have anything to do with the PKK? Did he overturn what they started? Questions asked, one Major arrives and the ending lets readers know this is far from over and that Rollie is still in the game. Graves need to be dug up, the list Gordon had, his friend Will’s part now revealed and an ending that shows that author David Rich has raised the bar for others to follow. Just when you think you have it all figured out, the players are about to reach the final scene you won’t believe what this author has planned. The ending alerts readers to know that there is more to come. Just what was in the graves you will have to dig it up yourself to find out? Rollie Waters: what’s next? Ask Dan! Middleman: an intermediary or go-between or Rollie Waters.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer