Wednesday, April 07, 2021

15. Burnt Sienna by David Morrell

I believe this is the third David Morell book I have read.  The other two, First Blood and Testament are dark, almost dominated by their darkness.  Burnt Sienna is pretty rough at points but it has a much more traditional men's action story arc.  There is nothing particular original here, it almost feels like a pastiche of a men's action paperback from the late 20th century, though much more meticulously crafted than those tended to be.  It does it really well, though, with a driving, muscular story and an almost mythical clash of artistic ass-kicker against psychotic megalomaniac.

Chase Malone is an ex-military helicopter pilot turned successful artist hermit, living in Mexico. A creepy guy tracks him down and offers him a tremendous sum to paint some rich guy's wife.  He refuses, as his main ideal seems to be freedom. The guy turns out to be a completely bonkers, almost cartoonishly evil black market weapons baron who won't take no for an answer. He destroys Malone's life.  Just before going for a futile revenge, Malone is contacted by his old war buddy (whose life he saved) who now works for the agency.  He convinces Malone to spy while getting his revenge.  

Ballassar the weapons lord is a great badguy.  Portrayed as completely domineering, both psychologically and physically (in his 60s, barrel-chested, he manhandles a .50 caliber machine gun), he sets Malone to paint his super beautiful wife.  His backstory is really nasty.  I won't go into the plot anymore beyond saying it keeps moving forward and takes an interesting route to its wild climax.  It's all a bit melodramatic, but everything is served out with so much vehemence and energy, that you enjoy it as part of the ride.  Nothing complex here, just a good solid action read.

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