Book Review: The 19th Element by John L. Betcher





The 19th Element-A James Becker Thriller

John L. Betcher

978-1451521016

Createspace (June 23, 2010)


Told from the point-of-view of a former elite U.S. military intelligence operative, and the perspective of an Al Qaeda-backed
terrorist cell, The 19th Element by John L. Betcher is a first rate
psychological thriller that will hook your interest early and keep you reading
non-stop until the final page.


Although this is the second release in the series, The 19th Element takes place a few months prior to the author's
debut, The Missing Element. James "Beck" Becker has settled
into retirement and is attempting to live a normal life, putting his law degree
to use with a legal practice in his hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota. Not much
happens in the small town so when a scientist-professor of agriculture is found
murdered and the only suspect, a lab assistant, is missing, Beck takes notice.
Beck may be officially retired from government intelligence work, but he cannot
ignore his training, experience, or gut reactions. When he discovers that the
assistant is Arab he brings his theories to the local police.


Ottawa County's Chief Deputy Sheriff, Doug Gunderson, is somewhat aware of Beck’s background and the pair has a friendship
that goes back to school days. However, Gunderson is leery about starting a
"terrorists in Red Wing panic" based on Beck's gut feelings and
little hard evidence. When not one but two fertilizer trucks are hijacked, Beck
begins to put the pieces together. He envisions an Oklahoma City-type bombing
and the only target worth hitting would be the nearby Prairie River Nuclear
Power Plant. Fearing a Chernobyl style meltdown, Beck continues his
investigation despite the lack of support from any government agency or
Gunderson. Beck has no faith in the FBI, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC),
state police, or power plant security to ward off a terrorist attack and calls
in his ex-military friend, Terry "Bull" Red Feather, for help.


We meet perhaps the strangest sleeper cell imaginable. An Arab lab rat (desperate to show his worth to Al Qaeda) who is capable of turning a truck load of pot
ash into a powerful bomb, and a pair of brainless, redneck anarchists led by a
bitter and dying survivor of the 1979 Three Mile Island incident.


The author brings all the players together for a tour de force final few dozen pages that make The 19th Element one of
the most entertaining, exciting thrillers I've read in a long time. Becker is a
character that you can cheer for. The banter between Beck and his wife, and
Beck and Gunderson shows the author’s substantial talent for writing dialogue.
A relentless pace, quirky yet realistic dialogue, and fascinating, believable
characters keep the pages turning. Considerable research, attention to detail,
and a well-plotted story make this a memorable read. Highly recommended.


By William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews


John L. Betcher holds a Bachelor's Degree, cum laude, in English from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and a Juris
Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. He has
practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River
community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He has also been a long-time supporter and
coach of youth volleyball there.


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