Break Point (Billy Beckett #4), by Kelly Hodge

Eight stars

A longtime fan of the work of Scott Pratt, I was drawn to the Billy Beckett series, which included collaboration with Kelly Hodge. After Pratt’s death, Hodge continued to pen novels in the series and make it his own. Usually wary of ‘post-death continuations’, I kept reading with trepidation, but Hodge proved to me that things were in good hands. Billy Beckett is a sports agent always looking for the next big star. His latest client is a nineteen-year-old tennis phenom with goals of storming onto the scene at the Australian Open. However, there are some hurdles keeping him from reaching his potential. A friend of Beckett’s is keen to see how things will progress, but must also deal with some troubling news within the trucking business he owns. Could there be more than meets the eye in the transport trailers and, if so, who is heading the illegal operation? Hodge does well with this, his first solo endeavour in the series.

Billy Beckett knows talent when he sees it, even if his clients cannot see the larger picture. He does his best to hone in on the possibilities, but is keenly aware that there are more hurdles out there than most expect to find. With a tennis star in the making, Beckett wants his client to reach for the stars, which begins with a spot in the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season.

While Beckett mulls this over, his close friend, Zander, has issues of his own to confess. Zander’s trucking company has suffered some losses after one trucker was found murdered in rural Missouri. The authorities believe it may have been tied to drug trafficking, something about which Zander knows nothing. However, it is worth investigating a little more.

It would seem that transporting items across state lines by truck is a reasonable way to do business. Someone’s taken it upon themselves to slide in some illicit drugs with various loads, from marijuana to cocaine, all in an effort to build their own empire. But loose lips are making things a little more difficult and people need to be terminated to keep the leaks from spreading.

While Billy works with is client, Zander must get to the root of the issue and solve the problem before his empire goes down the tubes. The trouble is, doing so might mean ruining the future for Billy’s latest client. It will certainly be a gamble either way and no one knows what to expect.

I know I did not do justice to the plot summary above, but rest assured that Kelly Hodge knows what he’s doing with this series. The stories are rich with action and strong sports themes, keeping the reader engaged and curious about what is to come. A great narrative rhythm keeps things flowing and character development is non-stop throughout. I can only hope that Hodge, an independent author, will keep churning out stories and get them out to the public!

Billy Beckett is a no-nonsense kind of guy, but always seems to be putting out fires to help his clients. Few know how to handle fame, which is where Beckett comes in. He has his eye on the prize, even when the athletes are diverted by their own foibles. Beckett’s character may not be front and centre throughout, but there is some decent development in the story. He knows what to do and how to make it click, though remains humble about it as much as possible. There is some great personal and professional development in the story, leaving the door open to possibilities as the series (hopefully) continues.

As I said above, I only came to know of Kelly Hodge through his collaborative work with Scott Pratt. That being said, Hodge has made an impact on me, such that I want to keep reading whatever he publishes. This story, seemingly his first solo effort (without collaboration with Pratt since the author’s death), proves to be just as strong as the previous three novels and keeps the momentum needed to create a great thriller. The narrative flows well and uses short chapters to tease the reader. There is a strong plot that continues to develop and some unknowns that must be resolved in short order. Those looking for a complex thriller can look elsewhere, but there is something in here for the reader who wants entertainment and an easy to digest novel. A great way for me to begin a new reading year!

Kudos, Mr. Hodge, for this wonderful story. I can only hope Billy will be back soon, with more to share!