As Soldiers of Future by Jana DeLeon opens, the trio that comprises Swamp Team 3, namely Fortune, Ida Belle, and Gertie, are enjoying the Fourth of July festival in Sinful, Louisiana along with Deputy Carter LeBlanc, who has been put out of commission due to a concussion during a failed attempt to murder him. Suddenly, they hear an explosion nearby, but is too big and loud to be from a local still. Instead, they learn that Carter’s uncle, Walter, has been injured in the blast and not with anything conventional. Instead, he has been hit by a flying leg, and this leg smells like cat urine, a sure sign that the owner has been using and cooking methamphetamine. As if that isn’t stressful enough, in the middle of the night, Fortune hears intruders in her house, only to burst in, armed and ready to shoot, on the local Mob members, Big and Little Herbert. Fearful that they are about to express their anger at her meddling in their business, Fortune is relieved to learn that these are respectable Mob bosses with standards to uphold in their territory, and those standards include their own prohibition against harder drugs like meth. By the time they leave, Fortune has found new partners, who promise to help her solve the meth problem with their resources, which include a super-fast air boat.
With the new sheriff having made it clear that he is refusing to investigate the explosion, Swamp Team 3 gets involved, starting with a trip to the explosion site. There they find a finger that helps them identify the cooker, though not the boss. Hoping that the meth has not made it into the high school, the trio volunteers to chaperone the Fourth of July teen dance with the goal of doing reconnaissance. It turns out that the dance is really just a big bonfire, which becomes much bigger than they expected when the milk containers holding the gasoline leak and cause mayhem. The investigation also takes them once again to the notorious Swamp Bar, which as usual wraps up in a wild boat chase.
This book continues the series in a very creative manner. I was impressed by the way DeLeon succeeds in explaining the details of the back story by weaving them into the plot elements. In the second book in the series, Lethal Bayou Beauty, I got a bit annoyed at the explanations of the first book, so the deft handling of the back story in this book is a big change for the better. I also liked the way Fortune shows personal growth in the introspection over her life, wondering if she has had true meaning in her life and what to do with herself once she is free from Ahmad’s price on her head.
Cassandra Campbell continues the narration of this series. I find her to be an excellent narrator, being a believable Fortune as the narrator of the book. She seems believable in her accents and really keeps me further tied to the story. My only complaint is that in one of the most recent books, she started pronouncing the name of Ahmad, the arms dealer out to get Fortune, without the “h” in the name. The English language treats an “h” after a vowel as silent, but Arabic clearly enunciates the consonant. In the first couple books, Campbell pronounced the name the way it should be said, but she dropped the “h” after a while. I didn’t notice the change until the previous book, “Gator Bait,” but it’s possible the error began earlier than book five. However, since Ahmad is not a character in the book but just a presence in the background, this error isn’t too annoying an issue.
Just as in the previous five books in the series, I loved Soldiers of Future, which gave me several hours of delightful listening, actually making me fight to stay awake just so I wouldn’t have to wait to find out what would happen. And this was my third or fourth time listening to the book! My only two complaints are that it ended too soon and that it concluded with a major cliffhanger that wouldn’t allow me to take a break from the series in order to review a new book. So I now have Hurricane Force playing as I write this review! I give the book five stars!
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