Manning Wolfe is an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas. After many years of storytelling, Manning has written a legal thriller series involving an Austin-based Texas attorney. The first, Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs. Boots King, was the winner of the 2014 Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript Contest. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, she specializes in business law. Visit her website at www.manningwolfe.com.
Seventh Street Books/Prometheus
299 pgs., $15.95
Review by Manning Wolfe
Mark Pryor’s latest thriller featuring his recurring character, Hugo Marston, opens with a dead body floating in the Seine in Paris, France. It’s not his friend Bart Denum’s nineteen-year old-daughter, Amy, but when she is a no-show for several days, both Hugo and Denum become alarmed. Hugo follows the breadcrumbs and finds that the wannabe model has been secretly working at a strip bar. Further inquiries suggest that she has left with Rubén Castañeda, a stranger whom she recently met, and is on her way to Spain.
Hugo, chief of security at the American Embassy, and Tom Green, his quarrelsome friend and CIA agent, follow Amy’s trail to Barcelona. During an unauthorized search, the two investigators find Denum up to his elbows in the blood of Castañeda. Chief Inspector Garcia and the Barcelona police arrest Denum for the murder while continuing to work with Hugo, accommodating him with interpreters, tools, and access.
All the while, Tom irritates everyone by overindulging in the local vino, breaking the local gun carry rules, and inappropriately flirting with the professional women. Hugo, with the morals and manners of a saint compared to Tom, leads the team with two goals: proving Denum’s innocence by seeking the real killer and finding Amy before she disappears for good. In the process, the team ponders possible organ theft and discovers a connection to Los Matadorés, a shadowy prison gang that may be responsible for the bull’s head drawn in blood over Castañeda’s body. Hugo’s efforts narrow the list of suspects and pick up steam until the killer is revealed in a fast-paced ride to the end.
The Reluctant Matador explores the dark underbelly of life with a well-paced plot. A particularly interesting thread delves into sex trafficking and the differences between European and American sexual standards and preferences. The banter between Hugo and Tom is stimulating, smart, and entertaining. Pryor uses the fascinating city of Barcelona to infuse an interesting element into the story showing locations and local attractions as the mystery unfolds.
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