Book Review: Graham Brown’s Black Rain

Posted March 8, 2014 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Graham Brown’s Black Rain

Black Rain

in Hardcover edition on January 26, 2010 and has 515 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon., Barnes & NobleKobo.

First in the Hawker & Laidlaw thriller series with a heavy dose of horror and revolving around Danielle Laidlaw and Hawker, ex-CIA. This story takes place primarily in Brazil.

Be sure to read the prologue!

My Take

It started off feeling same-same, but things developed into a story I could not put down. It sure kept my heart rate up!

I loved being inside Hawker’s head as he analyzes what’s happening and the likely reasons for it.

Man, Brown plays his characters well giving them unique personalities with unexpected deliveries. The professor is so sweet as he gets caught up in his subject while the innocent student holds up amazingly well. I love that Danielle has a heart and thinks the possibilities through, wanting to help people.

It’s all positive and save-the-world until it descends into greed and the desire for power. It’s the events in this that provide this series an uncommon beginning for the primary character: Danielle. I won’t know until I dive into #2, Black Sun, but I have to wonder if she’ll be changing employers. It’s as if we came in on the tail end of Danielle’s current job just as she has a change of conscience, and her real world will begin in the next installment. Don’t get me wrong. Black Rain is an excellent start, unique in how Brown introduces us to the two main characters. It’s a lot like life, with meetings and new people affecting how we live.

Yeah, the usual tropes are here: the greedy backstabbers along with the greedy, power-hungry businessman with their inevitable endings. But Brown keeps it interesting 90% of the time with his Maya setting and the time traveler(s) who have such an effect on our past. It’s the conclusions that the survivors reach that made me fearful of where our society is heading.

I do love how Brown plays on the guilt our good guys feel. Very nicely done. I also like how Brown portrays Hawker: intelligent, perceptive, and with lateral thought processes. He’s like a grimy James Bond. As for the betrayal…oh, boy. It’s hard to believe that there are people like that out in the world. Yet I know they are. What made it even more terrifying was how, how sympathetic the bad guy was. So warm and reasonable sounding, even as you knew he was simply setting them up for the kill.

The premise of Gibbs and his plans seemed a bit farfetched, but then again, this is Washington, D.C. Wouldn’t put anything past them.

Then there’s how Brown pulled in the Mayan culture and its legends. Wow. Very plausible and simply made the story even more intriguing.

Oh, boy. That ending. Brown knows how to play the tension and drama. I gotta gets me the next in line, Black Sun.

The Story

It’s been a hard slog investigating an expedition that occurred decades ago. It only gets worse with Moore’s news from the head office, even with Laidlaw’s discovery.

Still Gibbs is dangling a mighty fine carrot in front of Laidlaw, and she’s too stubborn to resist it. Besides, if you could save the world, wouldn’t you try?

The Characters

Danielle Laidlaw is being mentored by Arnold Moore for the National Research Institute (NRI). Both are field operatives tasked with “examin[ing] cutting-edge projects and determin[ing] what technologies, if any, could be valuable to the United States”.

The expedition
Private security is headed up by Pik Verhoven, a South African mercenary who has tangled with Hawker in the past. Hawker is ex-CIA and a pilot, disavowed for past activities. Professor Michael McCarter, a senior professor of archeology in New York City, has recently lost his beloved wife to cancer, and now he wants life to have meaning again. Mark Polaski handles communications tech while William Devers is a linguist who speaks several native languages. Susan Briggs is a student from McCarter’s university about to enter the master’s program in Archeological Studies. Brazos is one of the porters.

Stuart Gibbs is the paranoid director of operations, who runs the place like a private club. And he hates and distrusts Moore. Matt Blundin, one of Gibbs’ Boys, is chief of security and the best in the business.

Chollokwan tribe
Putock leads one of the bands of warriors. Ualon is the Old One, the Great Father and leader of the tribe.

The Nuree tribe is one of many terrified of the Chollokwan.

The really bad guys
Vogel is also a mercenary, and almost impossible to fool as Remo, a hired thug, finds out. Richard Kaufman is CEO and principal owner of Futrex Systems, Inc., a defense contractor who rakes it in hand over fist. And it’s still not enough. Norman Lang is his chief scientist in areas of unusual interest. Brilliant, he’d been caught falsifying data and now works for Kaufman. Eric is another mercenary.

Señor Duarte Medina is Moore’s contact in Manaus for a charter boat. Sven is a pretty boy contact with a lethal streak.

Jack Dixon is a mercenary and good at it. Blackjack Martin was a wealthy fortune hunter back in 1926/27 who launched an expedition and returned a laughing stock. Roche was another South African SAS who went too far.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a meaty looking, textured red that splits on a slight vertical diagonal in the background with the author’s name and the title in a concrete-looking texture, pebbled with fat raindrops.

I have to wonder if Brown chose the title Black Rain for its association with acid rain. Something to think about.