Book Review: James Tarr, "Splashback"

posted on April 29, 2020

Featuring kidnappings, gunfights and Feds in all flavors, Splashback by James Tarr is set in and around Detroit, MI, in the early days after 9/11. Carrying on the story of private security consultant John Phault, as introduced in Tarr’s earlier novel, Failure Drill, the protagonist and his close circle of young and suspiciously well-armed friends once again find themselves in a fight they didn’t ask for, and one they don’t completely understand. And once again, despite the odds, they won’t back down.

Phault, a former federal agent himself, is called in when one of the young men’s father disappears in what looks to have been a violent kidnapping. Complicating the matter is the fact that they all suspect, but can’t confirm, that the vanished patriarch is a spook working for the CIA or another three-letter intelligence agency. Was this a government-authorized operation? The work of a terrorist cell escalating the burgeoning conflicts in the Middle East? Or local payback for the recent “reorganization” of Detroit gangland hierarchy, compliments of Phault & Associates? (Read Failure Drill for more on that.) Whatever the case may be, John and the boys are immediately caught in the crossfire, and surviving the opening salvos only places larger targets on their backs. Determined to find the truth, what follows is a fatalistic rescue attempt where each deadly encounter yields mere fragments of information, and the lines between good guys and bad are blurred out of focus.

For those who enjoy action thrillers written by folks who actually know guns, I can enthusiastically commend Splashback to your reading list. And if you haven’t read Failure Drill, I’d recommend starting this adventure from the beginning. Besides writing novels, Tarr is a long-time gunwriter and USPSA Grand Master, so he knows a thing or two about firearms. Reading one particularly tense scene, a botched ambush in multi-story hotel, I found myself counting the rounds fired from Phault’s Colt 1911, knowing that the character’s ammunition supply in that moment was desperately limited. I was gratified when, after double-checking, the shots added up to seven per magazine, and the reload sequence was accurately described. Reader’s will find the same in the descriptions of revolvers, pistols, rifles, shotguns and even a belt-fed machine gun, and it’s a credit to the author that Splashback gets so much right.

Splashback is available through Amazon in digital format ($4) or as a 374-page paperback ($18).




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