The Victor – Matt Rogers

The Victor – Black Force Shorts #1
By Matt Rogers
134 pages
Published by Matt Rogers
Read it now at Amazon

When the Boss Calls on Your Day Off, You’re Going to Have a Bad Day…

James Xu was supposed to be taking a break. An elite agent for Black Force, a government operation so covert that the FBI’s never even heard of it, Xu is returning from the field to his New York City home when he gets the call. Details are sparse. Just before he managed to kill himself in custody, a triad soldier said something about a tournament taking place at a townhouse in Brooklyn. Today.

Xu’s handlers don’t know what kind of tournament, or what the prize is. It might (or might not) have something to do with a mysterious cargo container that’s raising alarms at the Port of New York and New Jersey. They need someone to go in impersonating the dead triad soldier and find out what’s going on before it’s too late. Their man needs the skills to walk into a situation with no foreknowledge at all and handle whatever he finds. He needs to be in New York right now because there’s no time to lose. And to pass as the triad soldier, he needs to be Asian. That’s a very short list, and so Xu is called into action.

In a nest of bad guys on edge and ready to kill for the tournament’s mysterious prize, Xu doesn’t like his odds. And those odds just get worse once Xu realizes he’s not the only one there who’s not who he claims to be. When the tournament goes bad, Xu seizes his best chance of survival: reducing the situation to chaos. This at least levels the playing field because now nobody knows what’s happening. And chaos is something Xu’s very good at.

The deadly melee that follows quickly spills out of the townhouse. Xu finds himself in a race across New York to stop a plot to plunge the city into all-out war. By the time he’s done, Xu may wish he’d just stayed in the field.

Short, But with a Delivery Like a Brick Through a Plate Glass Window

Set in the same world as Rogers’ full-length novels starring Jason King and Will Slater, the Black Force Shorts are novella-length side stories. They give Rogers a playground where he can indulge himself without breaking his main series characters. There are six of these shorts to date (the sixth, The Storm, is brand new at Amazon as of this writing, and features the return of James Xu.) They hit the ground running, and they don’t look back.

This shorter length and fast pace gives The Victor some serious impact. It’s an exhilarating ride that keeps you moving so fast that Rogers can get away with a few things he might not if he ever slowed down. The basic premise of the tournament of gangs sets the action off with a bang, but if you think about it too long, it becomes a little harder to believe. Indeed Xu himself sees through it, so it’s fair to wonder why the gangs buy it. And then, as again Xu himself notes, the guy who expertly patted him down for weapons at the door seems to have done a terrible job with everyone else.

But none of this really matters. While you’re caught up in the action, The Victor is so much fun that it seems almost rude to question the details. The Victor is a story that you knock back like a shot of whiskey in one sitting. Then you shake it off and pour yourself the next one.

Xu takes some serious punishment in this book, and even he wonders if he’ll survive it. It’s fun to ride through the story with an irresistible force, but it’s refreshing to see the author at least acknowledge the toll all this mayhem would take on his hero. Xu’s Manhattan penthouse apartment apparently comes with its own doctor on call. In his line of work, that’s probably a good idea.

— MP