Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: No Regrets, No Remorse by R.F. Sharp

No Regrets, No Remorse is the first novel in a series featuring an unorthodox investigator and vigilante, Sydney Simone.

Sydney Simone, wounded herself, is dedicated to helping via a cloaked website and identity those whose wrongs can’t be righted by orthodox means. First she verifies the client’s story; then she accepts payment: half up front, half on completion of her work. Usually it’s a form of human pest control. For cover, Sydney works as an assistant at the Rose Madder Gallery in West Palm Beach, run by Oscar Leopold. Oscar, a sculptor, has left his law practice behind. But now his former partner Roy is arrested for murdering Big Jack, an attorney with a sleazy television advertising presence and he has no choice but help him out.

This is one of those novels that make the reader feel conflicted when it comes to its heroine. Sydney Simone is unlike any other character I have met in crime fiction lately. She’s tough, way to smart, and has a lot of secrets. And she’s a hit-woman. She doesn’t take every single case that comes her way though; she’s just trying to make things right where the justice system had failed.

Killing the Ann Arbor guy was satisfying. A job well done. Her history showed no patience with child molesters. No regrets, no remorse. It had always been that way.

No regrets, no remorse? And she’s fighting the good cause? Is that even humanly possible? Well, for her it is. She is a loner and —to talk about contradictions— she leads a double life, and she has a very good friend, Oscar; whom she helps with his sculptures and his little art gallery, and when it comes to that with his investigations. He doesn’t know her secret, nobody does, and that’s for the best, because if he did he could find himself in harm’s way.

Meeting Oscar for the first time had been pure chance. Sydney fled from Philadelphia after a job went bad, with the police and the client searching for her. She needed a place to live and preferably some cover. The situation in Philly had been ideal. She was the resident manager at a small motel, so didn’t need to get housing or utilities in her name. Housekeeping was done by a local mother and daughter who would fill in if she had to go on a mission. She was off the grid. But unforeseen things can happen no matter how careful the plan—like a son making a surprise visit to his father, who at the moment was being drowned in his pool by Sydney. She escaped, and wasn’t sure anyone knew her name but they had her description and that was enough to cause her to leave town, not even going back to the motel to pick up her belongings.

She needed a similar setup in Florida, so when she stumbled across the help wanted sign in the window of the Rose Madder Gallery she went in. Oscar was easy to charm, she got the job, and the room downstairs came with it.

Oscar provided the perfect cover at first for Sydney, but not before too long he became her lover, and then an ex-lover, and now they are best friends. He’s the only person in the world that she cares about and she’d do anything to protect him, even put herself in the line of fire.

Her buddy, though an artist, is not as helpless as one would think. He doesn’t scare easily and when it comes to taking matters into his own hands he rises to the challenge. Here’s what happens when he comes face to face with some thugs in a deserted parking lot during the night. He just aims his handgun unflinchingly at them and says:

“This is a derringer. Often used by the police as a hideaway backup. It fires two .45 caliber bullets. If I shot you, say, in the knee…” He gestured with it again but not at the man’s knee, still aiming at his crotch, and stepped a little closer. The guy stepped back, looking to his friends for support. “You might not die from shock or blood loss if you got to a hospital right away. Of course, you might lose the leg since most of the socket and kneecap would be blown out. If you’re lucky, and my aim is off a little you might save it, but forget about playing basketball again or even walking without a limp. And at this distance I just don’t see how I could miss.”

During the investigation both Oscar and Sydney will find themselves in dangerous situations many times, since there’s more to the case than what at first meets the eye. And as if that’s not enough, at the same time, they have to organize an exhibition at the gallery, while Sydney also has to confront a man, who has somehow found out who she really is and is blackmailing her into taking a case.

The two heroes seem to be very different from each other, and yet the one complements the other. It’s as if there’s a secret bond between them, a bond that no people or facts, or even forces of nature, can break. Sydney is the fire in Oscar’s calm waters; Oscar is the earth that appeases Sydney’s winds of fury.

An enjoyable read, with many light touches of humor, despite the bleak at times subject matter, which comes with a heroine that sticks into the reader’s mind long after he finishes reading the book. I cannot help but wonder what she’ll do next.

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