Bring Him Back (Ben Hope #0.7), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Scott Mariani offers up another wonderful early story about his strong-willed protagonist, Ben Hope, in this short piece. After the traumatic kidnapping of her son by a crazed ex-husband, Jessica Hunter looks to Ben Hope for some answers. While the police are working to find Carl, they have been unable to find any solid leads, forcing Hope to take measures into his own hands. While poking around, Hope is able to find some definite clues that point to the mindset of Drew Hunter, though nothing seems to match the man who appeared at the family home. In a case that takes him to Italy and eventually the Principality of Monaco, Hope chases down leads left by, of all people, Carl. What he finds is a narrative that differs greatly from a crazed father trying to capture his son for his own. Instead, there seems to be a degree of trying to save his son from a clueless mother and a new step-father who is not the doting parental figure he tries to portray. With Carl found, the story takes a new turn and twists in ways that will force Ben Hope to show just how sharp his former-SAS skills can be after retiring. A well-paced piece that will appeal to Ben Hope fans and new series readers (such as myself) alike!
I have read three short stories to commence by Ben Hope binge read and I have a good sense of the man, up to now. Gritty and full of pep, Hope seeks to balance the world after seeing some of the worse aspects in his time with the SAS. However, not only does Hope pack some military might, but also a keen eye for sleuthing, which is exemplified here in spades. What lies ahead for the full-blown novels, I have no idea, but if Hope is as exciting there as he has been here, I know I am in for a wonderful ride. The story seems to be one that has two portions, the early stage that develops as the reader would expect, but then there is another, found when a twist falls into place. That twist takes the narrative and the theme in an entirely new direction and keeps the reader from being able to predict things until the very end. That Hope is a kidnap and ransom specialist proves only to be part of the alluring equation in this piece, as Mariani offers up his protagonist’s full skill set to keep the narrative clipping along. I can only hope that there will be more of this determination as the series develops. I am ready to dive in to the full-length novels to see where they will take me.
Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me curious and ready to explore the world of Ben Hope. I have heard much about this series and can only hope (pun intended) that things progress as nicely as they have up to this point.

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