Andrews-Katz, Eric (November 1, 2014). Balls and Chain. 225 pages. Bold Strokes Books. $18.95. ISBN: 978-1-62639-218-2. Paperback.
Miguel Reyes is the first openly gay governor of Florida. When the legislature passes a bill to legalize same sex marriage, a shadowy group invades his home to kidnap his son. They’re holding him hostage and say that he will be murdered unless the governor vetoes the bill. Agent Buck 98 is sent in to find the boy, rescue him, bring the kidnappers to justice, and save the day. But with the disappearance of household staff, crazy relatives, a shadowy tail car, and Buck’s own inability to keep his mouth shut, saving the son is coming down to the wire.
This is the second Buck 98 book from Eric Andrews-Katz after 2012’s The Jesus Injection. The story is an enjoyable detective thriller as Buck tries to infiltrate the group that has kidnapped the governor’s son. Is it the conservative pastor with the shadowy past protesting the bill? An old acquaintance the governor sent to jail? A disappeared tutor that was a trusted member of the household staff? Each has to be investigated in turn with a biting comment and sarcastic sense of humor. The story is fast-paced and ties up everything in a car chase where the good end happily and the bad unhappily (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde).
Perhaps the most problematic part of this book is the treatment of the governor’s African-American assistant, Phynilla Jackson. She takes an immediate dislike to Buck and his glib manner and reacts extremely negatively towards him. While this sort of comedy is common in this style of book, at times, the character veers uncomfortably towards the “angry black woman” stereotype. While she eventually does have a moment or two with depth and no anger, the cutting, adversarial tone returns quickly and seems jarring and out of place in the world of the book. She’s a governor’s assistant in a purple state: I’m sure she has to deal with people she hates all the time. If she were this volatile, she would have been fired ages ago.
This book is recommended for people who enjoy thrillers and libraries that collect popular literature. Be sure to have the first in the series as many characters from the first book show up in this title and have relationships that are not immediately apparent without that prior knowledge.
John Mack Freeman