REVIEWED: The Ultimatum


The Ultimatum by Karen Robards (Crime/Adventure Novel, 2017).

Bianca St. Ives leads a double life, heading up a more-or-less legit security consulting firm in Savannah, Georgia as a cover for the real ‘family business’ (as a super-slick international thief). She’s learned that trade from best–a legendary figure who she’s always thought of as her father.

But then their latest high-stakes caper goes horribly wrong. Not only do they fail to score the vast fortune of a wealthy (and corrupt) prince in exotic Bahrain, but it all turns out to be a trap and it seems Richard (her alleged Dad) has met a fiery end along with other gang members. Bianca and a computer wiz recruited for this mission are apparently the only survivors. She’s had to use all her cunning, her training (and considerable sex-appeal) to get them safely away.

She and her new sidekick (who’s willing and loyal, but inexperienced) return to their ‘official’ work in Georgia. But then they receive the title demand that Richard must take on a new mission–recovering a new military device that’s been stolen in  a case of military/industrial espionage. If he fails, the ultimatum warns, his still-secret identity will be blown.

As far as Bianca knows, Richard is indeed dead (though he is a master at such cloak and dagger acts as faking his own death–he’s done it before). But she’s worried that the dedicated Interpol cop who’s been tracking him unsuccessfully for years will then be able to trace it all back to Richard’s other associates/partners in crime (including her).

Then whoever is sending these messages to Richard’s super-secret email account ups the ante. They’ve kidnapped his second wife and young daughter (Bianca’s half-sister), who know him under his latest cover name and have no idea that he’s a criminal. They’ll die, if the required deed isn’t done.

A lot of high-stakes action (and plenty of high-tech spy-type gadgetry) come into play throughout the book. There’s also plenty of physical activity (of both violent and sexual natures) involved. There’s a security guy who keeps turning up. Is he a cop, as she suspects? Is he part of the bunch holding the innocent wife and child? Is it all an elaborate second trap?

And what are the hidden truth about her Dad’s ultra-mysterious background and Bianca’s origins?

She will learn plenty of unsettling even shocking things in the course of the novel. There will be derring-do in an array of interesting settings around the world. She’ll confront the childhood violence she has mentally repressed, encounter spies and counter-spies, feel alternately betrayed and reassured, encounter a secret government program she was an unwitting part of–and all the while managing repeated skin-of-her-teeth escapes right up to the book’s very last page.

It’s a wild novel with multiple twists. Bianca is an interesting, conflicted yet stalwart heroine in a world that blends James Bond-like adventure with her troubled (and troubling) family secrets.

I liked this one, quite a lot. It’s complete as is, but there’s room for sequels–if Ms. Robards is so inclined.




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