Title: Shadow of the Templar: With a Bullet
Author: M. Chandler
Length: 494 Pages
At a Glance: The Shadow of the Templar series continues to impress in spite of some slow spots in the spooling out of this particular narrative thread. I remain a dutiful and loyal fan of these characters and the way Chandler is leading us towards…who knows what?
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: For Jeremy Archer, it all starts with a simple phone call from halfway around the world. For Simon Drake, it all started three years ago…
Now a madman from Simon’s past is on the loose, claiming his revenge on Simon and his team, one member at a time… and no one who stands in his way is safe.
Not even Jeremy Archer.
Review: Wait, what? Did we just have a minor breakthrough here??? Perhaps, perhaps… Simon Drake is still a Grade-A butthead, don’t get me wrong, but the hyper-mantastic security blanket he wraps himself in may be showing signs of fraying about the edges where Jeremy’s concerned. Maybe… With 500+ pages left in this series, I’m not jumping too quickly to Templar’s defense; there’s still plenty of his pooh to wade through, I’m sure.
Simon, jeebus, just embrace your inner bisexual already, wouldja?
Okay, now I’ve got that off my chest, the usual warnings, here, that in spite of things turning the corner, nice and sloth-like, between Simon and Jeremy in this installment, don’t venture into it, if you’re tempted at all, in search of a standard fare romance. It doesn’t exist either in this book or the series; although, there are some things, slight shifts of nuance, that I found quite romantic within their context. Sometimes just knowing someone’s got your six, knowing that a certain someone is going to be there for you if the need arises, is supremely romantic, and that’s where we are with Simon and Jeremy right now. They’re not the ‘I love you’ sort, to think they ever will be makes me cackle inside, but when one of them is in need, the other is there to stand guard, and I love that in deep and meaningful ways. I also believe the hoops Simon jumps through for Jeremy at the end of this book broadcast his intentions none too subtly, whether Simon realizes it or not.
The blurb for this novel is vague to the nth degree, isn’t it? But with a title like With a Bullet, I don’t think it’s too revealing for me to say the story begins and ends with a shooting—different but connected victims—and much of the stuff in between bullets flying is aimed at finding the fugitive who has popped Simon and put him out of commission, albeit temporarily, leaving Sandy (Springheel) in charge, which prompted the ‘simple phone call’ to Jeremy. Jeremy flew to be at Simon’s hospital bedside, and then stayed to be his caregiver, something that alternately yanked Simon’s chain and gave him some grudging squishy feels too. Oh, the feels are there; it’s just that with Simon, you often have to read between the lines to see them. Actions do speak louder than words in so many cases, though.
Our Simon is a bit of an antihero, really, and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to limp to that conclusion. Metaphorically speaking, if Simon were the Beast, Jeremy would be the one singing about him being mean and coarse and unrefined. All true. It’s pretty nifty, though, and a nice twist on Simon’s role. As the leader of this crack team of FBI Special Ops agents, Templar should be the one treading on moral high ground, the white knight sworn to uphold a more ethical standard. No, Simon is more of a beige-leaning sort, edging towards gray—he’s a greige knight willing to turn a blind eye on the shadier stuff, if it means he wins, and it’s looking more like it might be a Shadow of the Jeremy variety who takes Templar down a notch or three. I love the sort of role reversal here, in Jeremy’s penchant for dressing in black, as most fictional villains do, and yet he’s such a good guy. Okay, he’s a thief wanted in several countries, but still, he’s a pretty nice one, as thieves go, and I’ve grown to adore him even more with this installment of the series.
One of the things I’ve lamented through the first couple of books, which MUST be read in order, is the vague-ish character composition of Simon’s team: Sandy, Mike, Johnny, Nate, and now, the FNG (f-ing new guy, if you’re not into acronyms), Dave, whom I think I love even if he doesn’t say more than ‘Um’ and ‘What?’ much of the time. The team are each drawn in a rather linear fashion, and they don’t surprise readers much; they never go off script or behave in unexpected ways, so I’m not sure what the method was to M. Chandler’s madness in telling the story from alternating points of view at this stage of the game, but I can’t say with any sort of conviction that it enhanced the telling. From a narrative perspective, it didn’t always work for me. From a character perspective, I didn’t glean much more from the omniscient narration of their POVs than I’d already seen in the previous two books. Johnny (Texas) is cool and taciturn, though I liked some of his scenes the best, and Mike (Honda) I can only take so much of. His fratboy dudebro personality wears thin; entire chapters of him didn’t do much for me, though he did have some pretty badass moments that endeared him to me a bit more. He also has a big derpy moment with a certain lawyer lady that made him look rather dense, but that’s Mike for ya. His mental compass points just south of his waistline a lot of the time. The development between he and Sandy at the end was a nice surprise.
Now Nate (Specs)? Him I adore and I embrace that he’s such a completely loveable nerd, and that we learn some terrible backstory that bears a direct connection to Cole Farraday, this story’s villain, and the insanity that follows in his wake. I love how Team Templar rallies around Nate, not to coddle or belittle him but to exemplify the sort of bond these guys—Sandy included in that ‘guys’—have, and the depth of protectiveness they feel towards each other. They aren’t ones for the words, necessarily, but when one of them is threatened, they are all threatened, and Chandler gives them free agency to show their affection and respect for each other through what they do and not via what they say. Or, don’t say, to be more precise.
The Shadow of the Templar series continues to impress in spite of some slow spots in the spooling out of this particular narrative thread. I remain a dutiful and loyal fan of these characters and the way Chandler is leading us towards…who knows what? Her descriptive prose is the stuff of cerebral ecstasy, enabling everything to play out in my mind’s eye so vividly. I can picture every single scene, and will always appreciate an author’s ability to make me laugh with some well-placed snark and sarcasm, especially when I know there’s going to be some hell to pay, eventually. With a Bullet owes Jeremy, Nate, and Dave for its being another win for me. Two nerds and a second-story man. Yep. Love ‘em.
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