I’d never picked up a Scott Pratt book when this was suggested to me. I realize this was issued after he passed based on a manuscript he had drafted, The comparisons to Harlen Coben’s Myron Bolitar series are inevitable though. Until I looked up the author, I was sure it was Coben writing under a pseudonym.
Billy Beckett is a sports agent who is about to get his big break. He has been mentoring football player Jarvis Thompson for years, from high school up through college, and the NFL draft is around the corner. He’s skirting legalities my mentoring rather than representing, but Thompson turning pro promises to be a big thing for the up-and-coming agent. One night, while celebrating a big college win at Beckett’s house on a river, Thompson disappears. The press begins having a field day, knowing Thompson’s background. He comes from abject poverty and addiction, so the rumors start flying. It doesn’t help that drugs and cash are found at Jarvis’ last known location, along with Billy’s brother John
It’s up to Beckett to find him before his future is ruined.
It’s safe to say there’s more going on here than it seems. Beckett has been building a business – with the help of his girlfriend’s father – and is about to finally taste sweet success. He’s had both Rachel (the girlfriend) and John working with him. John’s past involvement with substance abuse should be a red flag for Beckett to have him around his proteges, but he doesn’t see it until it’s too late. Of course, that’s the easiest answer, so it’s not the correct one. Rachel, tired of all of the work and too little payoff, leaves him. Where does that leave the business?
I don’t know why there’s this fascination with sports agents. I have an old friend who is a sports agent/lawyer and it’s a pretty boring profession except for the games they get to attend. Beckett has used the money funneled into his business to create the air of success while he’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Jarvis Thompson promises to be his big break. Beckett has done everything to help him and guide him to break out of the poverty he was born and raised in. Beckett’s motivations are not altruistic.
That’s part of the problem. Nearly all of the characters aren’t likable. When Thompson disappears, Billy is concerned for him, but it’s more about him seeing everything he has worked so hard to build ripped away. Other than Jarvis, the rest of his family is painted as drug addicts and criminals looking to take advantage of his talent. However, when he needs the help, Jarvis’ criminal brother pops up to do the “dirty work” and keep Beckett’s hands clean. Rachel isn’t likable since she cuts and runs at the first sign of trouble, and John is too busy feeling sorry for himself to help his brother.
The interaction between the characters doesn’t feel genuine either. They spend too much time going over the same points as if they are keeping everyone, including the reader, informed of developments rather than having them play out naturally in the course of the story. Yes, it’s okay to have a character know something and keep it to himself for a while rather than telling everyone who will listen.
I finished the book, but I don’t know if I will read the next in this series, which is rare for me when I start a series. There was nothing in the characters that makes me feel like I want to see them again. The ending wasn’t really a surprise, but normally I would be intrigued by how we get there. Deep Threat didn’t even achieve that.