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R.J. MacCready, a new science-thriller hero

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, October 4, 2017 in Pulps, Review, Thriller
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

R.J. MacCready, a new science-thriller hero

'Hell's Gate'As a fan of techno-thrillers, I am always on the lookout for new and interesting characters in this genre. I happened to stumble upon a new character that has two books out already. The second book first appeared in hardcover, so I guess the first one was successful enough to go quickly to hardback. Most new authors have to have several books out before going to hardback originals.

This new character is R.J. MacCready, created by Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch.

MacCready, a captain in the U.S. Army in the first book (not certain if so in the second), is a zoologist. And the books are set toward the end of World War II and just after. While technology isn’t the main thrust of this series, science (and some speculative science) is, similar to the works of Rollins, Gibbons, and a few others.

First book, Hell’s Gate, is set in 1944. MacCready has been sent to Brazil (the Mato Grasso area to be exact) to look into some mysterious matters dealing with a Japanese sub that was found stuck up river. This is an I-400, a Japanese sub that can carry two single-prop bombers. (Yes, these really existed.) A group of Army Rangers were sent in and never heard from.

Turns out the Nazis are working with the Japanese to set up a secret missile launch site (well, more of manned “space planes”) that can strike the United States, ideally with a biological agent.

Adding to this is the area itself. The Mato Grasso is a poorly explored area (until recently) and is the possible location of Colonel Fawcett‘s “Lost City of Z,” which is now believed to have existed as a lost civilization that died out around the time of the arrival of the Europeans (thanks to diseases introduced by the Europeans and spread over trade routes). By the time explorers reached this area, it had been overgrown by the jungle. The authors have also added in some “living fossils,” including a new species of large vampire bats!

So MacCready, with some help from an old friend and his native wife, must not just contend with the Nazis and Japanese, but also with a new and very dangerous animal species.

Like some other science-based thrillers, the authors provide a section at the end giving the basis for some of the elements of their story, both historical, scientific, and speculative science, which is interesting. They’ve even added in some historical characters, as well as others based on real people. One thing different about this one is a three-page list of references, which I’ve not seen with other authors.

'The Himalayan Codex'Overall, I found this one pretty good.

Second one is The Himalayan Codex, which I have not read. This is set in 1946, and MacCready is given a new assignment to investigate. I’m not certain if he’s still tied to the Army in this or what as he’s shown to be working at the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History in New York.

As the title indicated, it’s set in the Himalayas, and has MacCready following a newly found codex by Pliny the Elder that hints at a lost race of humans that may be the basis for the legends of the Yeti. He is accompanied by one of the secondary characters from the first novel, so I wonder if this will be the beginning of a partnership in future works?

The two authors are interesting. Schutt is a vertebrate zoologist and college professor. His first book is Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures, so he’s clearly qualified to write about vampire bats! J.R. Finch is more mysterious. Little is said about “him” in the first book, and the second book indicates the name is a pseudonym. I thought using initials instead of a first name was a little strange, especially as they are a flip for MacCready’s (J.R. vs R.J.). Plus, I’ve seen that it’s often female authors who do this with either their names or when using pseudonyms (J.K. Rowling, anyone?). So I wonder if it’s a she or a he? Who knows.

I hope to get the second book soon and see if its as good as the first. Check out these this new series and see if you agree.