Discover → Thriller & Suspense

The Courier

By Gordon J. Campbell

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Before the last pages, Gregg will transition from courier to mercenary out of necessity and self-preservation.

Synopsis

In The Courier’s intense opening pages, four thugs are gunned down by an assassin in Bangkok, a businessman’s contract is brutally terminated in Tokyo, and a DEA agent saves an overdose victim in Charleston, West Virginia.

What’s the connection between these seemingly disparate tragedies? Debut novelist Gordon J. Campbell deftly answers that question over the next 300 pages, writing in bite-sized chapters that rarely fail to pack an emotional or physical punch.

The heart and soul of Campbell’s novel is 40-year-old Canadian Gregg Westwood, a devoted family man and medical sales rep based in Japan. Just as Gregg is double-crossed by his employer in Tokyo, he’s recruited by intelligence agents to deliver a package to Bangkok. As they see it, Gregg’s inexperience in espionage is his biggest asset.

But once there, the handoff doesn’t go as planned, and their new courier is in way over his head. Meanwhile, back in Japan, the life Gregg has so carefully constructed is suddenly at risk.

The Courier’s edge-of-your-seat plot is eclipsed only by Campbell’s lush landscapes. The claustrophobic density of Shinjuku and the stylish grit of Bangkok leap off the page.

Bella G Wright, BestThrillers.com

To say Gregg Westwood is having a bad day is an understatement. His secure job as a medical supply rep in Japan has been abruptly terminated.  After the bad news, he stops at one of his favorite watering holes, the Officer’s Club on the United States Airforce base in Tokyo. Gregg joins a couple of acquaintances for a drink. This decision will change his life.


These two men purportedly working for the US government’s finance and accounting group are actually members of a US intelligence agency. Over lunch the next day they offer Gregg a job as a courier. It is fast and easy money for what they describe as a mini vacation, traveling to other countries business class, delivering parcels than returning home to his family.


Gregg accepts the offer and is soon off to deliver the package. What he hasn’t bargained for are the assassins on his tail. He has unwittingly become a huge part of stopping an international drug ring, having street thugs attempting to kill him and will be called on to rescue someone he dearly loves before his job is complete. Before the last pages, Gregg will transition from courier to mercenary out of necessity and self-preservation. This is the beginning of his new life.


To say The Courier is a fast-paced thriller does not do it justice. The action never ends and it perfectly compliments the plot. Just when you think Gregg is going to be captured or killed, he lives to fight another day like a modern-day James Bond.


The characters are diverse and engaging. Some of them are decidedly murderous and determined to get a literal boatload of illegal opioids into the US. Adding reality to the character’s profiles brings them to life on the pages.


The Courier is destined to become a best-seller and I envision a blockbuster movie in the future. As we all know the book is always better than then film, so enjoy the masterful story before it hits the big screen. This is the first book I’ve read by Campbell and the first book in a series. I cannot wait to read the next Gregg Westwood book.


DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

Reviewed by

I began reviewing books on a now defunct website, GenReview in 2011. I now review books on my website, as well as for Penguin First To Read, Netgalley, Maryglenn McCombs, book publicist, Bookish First and Killer Nashville. I also review books for various authors that send me their books.

Synopsis

In The Courier’s intense opening pages, four thugs are gunned down by an assassin in Bangkok, a businessman’s contract is brutally terminated in Tokyo, and a DEA agent saves an overdose victim in Charleston, West Virginia.

What’s the connection between these seemingly disparate tragedies? Debut novelist Gordon J. Campbell deftly answers that question over the next 300 pages, writing in bite-sized chapters that rarely fail to pack an emotional or physical punch.

The heart and soul of Campbell’s novel is 40-year-old Canadian Gregg Westwood, a devoted family man and medical sales rep based in Japan. Just as Gregg is double-crossed by his employer in Tokyo, he’s recruited by intelligence agents to deliver a package to Bangkok. As they see it, Gregg’s inexperience in espionage is his biggest asset.

But once there, the handoff doesn’t go as planned, and their new courier is in way over his head. Meanwhile, back in Japan, the life Gregg has so carefully constructed is suddenly at risk.

The Courier’s edge-of-your-seat plot is eclipsed only by Campbell’s lush landscapes. The claustrophobic density of Shinjuku and the stylish grit of Bangkok leap off the page.

Bella G Wright, BestThrillers.com

The Courier, Bangkok

 

 

The taxi bounced over the speed bump and splashed through a steaming puddle of rainwater remaining from a summer shower as it sped toward the front entrance of the Ambassador Hotel. It jerked to a stop, and a hotel employee dressed in a crème-colored suit and red necktie opened the taxi’s door while the customer in the back seat all but threw his cab fare at the driver. The man adjusted his camp shirt to conceal his German-made SIG Sauer P226 and stepped from the car. He handed the doorman a fifty-baht tip and walked several yards away before a thank-you could be uttered. 

 

The assassin was built well for his profession with a trim and muscular frame. His average height combined with dark hair and brown eyes favoring his Japanese heritage granted valued anonymity when working in Asia. He turned left and walked up the crowded and poorly lit incline while maneuvering past street food stalls busy with patrons. An old woman was cooking beef and noodles in a wok. 

 

Hot oil bubbled, and the spicy aroma was strong and appealing. A teenage girl used a wooden pestle and pounded on vegetables and red chilies in a large mortar. Several Thais and a few tourists sat on plastic stools around small tin tables enjoying the street cuisine. The smell of lemongrass and the coriander herb essential to Thai cooking brought back memories of his sniper training in the jungles of Chiang Mai Province when he was addressed as Sergeant Jim Takada.  

 

The assassin hadn’t used his name given at birth in more than a decade and was presently known by colleagues as Pierre Marron. Dozens of taxicabs and bike taxis were parked in a line along the curb beyond the food stalls. One driver caught his eye. “Need a ride? Can I take you to see young sexy girls and maybe you want sex show? You want boys?” Marron ignored the staccato offers and carried on up the street to Sukhumvit Road where he again turned left. 

 

Marron spotted the Blue Moon Restaurant’s neon sign flashing on and off a block away, and he pulled behind a street vendor’s cart full of counterfeit Major League Baseball caps. He purchased a black Chicago Cubs cap and replaced the plain white hat he’d been wearing. While tossing the old headwear in a trash can he observed the streets. 

 

There was nothing across the road in the south, but a young Caucasian man was cutting in and out of the crowd and moving toward him with speed from the east. Marron considered the best defensive measures and swiveled his head to identify other potential threats. He relaxed when the young man stopped in front of an ice cream shop where two Thai women welcomed him with hugs and kisses. The threesome entered the shop, and the gunman walked to the Blue Moon. 

 

Marron let himself into the after-hours club and sat down while wondering why he’d allowed himself to break his number-one rule. “Look out for number one,” he muttered. He was waiting to meet an informant with data key to the next operation. It was an annoying and unprecedented request with potential risk. “Was he the only gun in town?” 

 

The detour from protocol had the assassin on edge, and he contemplated the implications of his orders to hold in place a moment before brushing the questions aside to run a check on the room. Nothing waved a red flag, and he forced a smile when a waitress approached him. He ordered a Singha Draft and scanned the tables placed outside the restaurant for those who didn’t mind the heat and humidity. 

 

They were empty, and the main air-conditioned room where he sat was less than half-full. He spent hours in places like this one in countries once classified as the third world. He wondered where he found the patience to stay in place. The last project was complete, and he was ready to leave Bangkok. His hours of preparation had paid off as they always did. He had memorized a checklist, which included visualizing the entry and exit points, practicing local accents, and readying equipment. Readiness was everything, and people in his profession knew awareness of the details kept you alive. “What am I doing here?” The words came out of his mouth as if spit by the assassin. 

 

The Blue Moon would get busy over the next hour with the arrival of young girls and some boys released from work in the entertainment district. They’d join the wealthy foreign tourists, called “farang,” and offer their professional company. The default demand from the scantily dressed and heavily made-up children of the night was at the least a free drink or a bite to eat when their services were refused. 

 

Marron’s location near the rear fire-exit doors offered a peripheral view of everything and everyone in the room. His language skills were impressive, speaking flawless Thai and with proficiency in several other Asian languages. Another prerequisite for his line of work was patience, and he’d reached its limit. He stood up readying to leave as his burner phone vibrated in his pocket. Marron answered by offering the operation code of the day, “Vincent.” 


 

“It’s Theo. Get out now. You’ve been compromised and must evacuate,” said the voice. 


The threat was confirmed as soon as he stepped near the back door of the Blue Moon. Both routes out of the alley were blocked by motorbikes staggered in gauntlet formation. Marron hesitated for a heartbeat and turned toward the bar’s front door to find a pair of men dressed in security uniforms blocking the main exit. 


Marron turned away from the rent-a-cops and stepped into the lane. He walked away from the direction of the busy Sukhumvit Road while removing his SIG Sauer from beneath his shirt. He pulled a silencer from his pocket and fastened it onto the handgun with practiced dexterity. Clouds moved across the sky, shading the alley from the moonlight. The darkened side street was subject to faulty and crackling back-alley lighting and it was shadowed by the buildings flanking the corridor.  


He stopped thirty yards from the small pack of bikes and assessed the four sun-blackened and raggedly dressed young men. They straddled their bikes, facing into the alley toward Marron. Their posture and unconcealed interest in Marron telegraphed the gang’s intent, and they stood between him and his objective.


A polite “excuse me” wasn’t going to get him past the thugs. His focus sharpened and his mind and body began to mesh. Marron charted the course of every move necessary to escape from the ambush. The professional killer controlled his breathing and heartbeat, remaining calm when he felt the adrenaline spike through his body.  


His mind’s peaceful state allowed a clear perspective, and he scanned the thugs, making an instant assessment for the impending engagement. Two of the bikers left their jackets open with firearms concealed under their vests. The other two grasped their bike handlebars with one hand and held blades exposed against their legs with the other. 


Marron jogged toward the bikers, forcing two of the rough young men to kick the starter pedals on their bikes. The armed thugs fumbled and pulled at the weapons held tightly against their chests by their vests. Marron’s SIG Sauer spat out two muffled shots, and he moved with the speed and agility of an elite athlete. The sound resonating around the concrete walls resembled the retort of a child’s cap gun. Bloody red mist filled the air, and the two bikers’ bodies slammed to the asphalt with their weapons remaining forever concealed and useless. 


The young thugs armed only with blades started maneuvering their bikes one-handed to escape. Marron sighted on the first and fired then moved his aim to the second to deliver another fatal round. The hollow-point bullets penetrated their chests and erupted, finishing the skirmish in less than fifteen seconds. Brass shell casings fell to the ground and bounced on the road. Their metallic ring reminded Marron to scoop them up to drop in his pants’ pockets.  


He analyzed the scene with a microsecond-long glance and confirmed the four deaths. The men waiting on motorbikes at the Sukhumvit Road entrance seemed frozen in shock. The rent-a-cops stepped into the alley from the bar’s exit and dropped to the ground when Marron fired one shot in their direction. 


No further action was required as most of the bikers rode away toward Sukhumvit Road. The others dropped to the ground and crawled for cover while the rent-a-cops dashed back into the bar. The hesitation allowed Marron time to snatch a motorcycle from one of the shell-shocked bikers. He stomped on the kick starter, and the bike’s engine roared to life.  


The assassin maneuvered around two corpses before turning the throttle and accelerating down the narrow alleyway, which emptied onto a thoroughfare allowing him to increase speed and blend into traffic. Marron slowed and positioned himself behind a family of three commuting home on a small motor scooter. He blended into the traffic, becoming another piece of the Bangkok community in motion. 

 

About the author

Gordon J. Campbell is a Canadian businessman living in Japan, where he’s practiced martial arts, run marathons, and traveled extensively. The Courier is his first novel, based on Campbell’s experience working with the military in Japan, and launches a powerful series featuring Gregg Westwood. view profile

Published on September 01, 2019

Published by

70000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Reviewed by

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