The Specialist: The Costa Rica Job

By Charles Peterson Sheppard

Archway Publishing | 2013 |196 pages

Reviewed by Robert Fleming

Sometimes there are books that should have been embraced by a powerful traditional publisher, with substantial distribution and effective marketing. This novel, The Specialist: The Costa Rica Job, penned by Los Angeles writer Charles Peterson Sheppard, deserved such a worthy fate; but that was not the case.

That’s a shame, because The Specialist, by the first time author, is chocked full of those good, action-packed ingredients of the tough, hardboiled American covert-action thriller which currently fill our nation’s bookshelves.

Recovering from a botched assignment in Costa Rica, The Specialist suffered serious injuries inflected in a caper involving Aguilera, a corrupt cop, and his drug cronies. Our hero was stomped into unconsciousness before they stripped him of his wallet and passport, and abandoned him in a dingy town in Panama.

While catching his breath on the mend, he rents an office in Santa Monica, but a half-year was a long time to rest without a paycheck.

The Specialist is not Bourne or Bond, but he is capable of mayhem. With a sterling reputation of fifteen years, he is an expert in skills that have a critical place in this modern world of terrorism and collateral damage. He knows all about personal security, counter-terrorism, threat response, and combat. The high-rollers and famous recognize his ability to protect and serve, while the politically powerful realize he will always set things right.

In the words of The Specialist, he explains his particular brand of alchemy as a troubleshooter: “I am not a spy. I am not an assassin. I am no longer a government agent. I am none of the things that immediately come to mind to unimaginable people. Some say I am an eraser of sorts, but I don’t eliminate people…I just make problems go away.” 

Overall, the noir feel of the novel sizzles when the lovely Mimi Sabo, the “Little Rich Girl” and the daughter of the vice president of El Banco Puro in Costa Rica, one of the leading Latin banks in the hemisphere, appears with a fresh assignment for our hero. She wants to locate her father, Juan Miquel Sabo before harm befalls him. The case is complicated because her dad has been an informant for three years for the cops locally, and Interpol.

Another twist in the situation is the arrest of the bank’s president, Antonio Pascal, six weeks ago for money laundering for the drug cartels. Pascal is a busy lad, for he is involved with funding the FARC, the band of communist rebels in Columbia and Brazil. Also, Pascal had an affair with Mimi’s mother and she left the family for her new lover. That sets up a solid motive for anything tricky her father might have done to his former partner and his soiled pals.

After a little haggling about the fee, The Specialist takes on the assignment, and enlists the help of Ze’ev Pinsky, a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli’s secret service, Mossad.

What is needed to complete the team is Chava Cresca, a Mossad operative, who is the equal of both men in excelling at spying and espionage skills. The team finds out that the bank also pilfered money from Iran’s Jundallah (Soldiers of God), now considered a terrorist group by the American government.

The Specialist really doesn’t want to go back to Costa Rica, not after the thumping he received his last time there. After a meeting with Mimi’s mother, who pleads with The Specialist to rescue her hubby, admitting that he “stole people’s money.” He changes his mind for good.

Like Flynn, Clancy, and the Bourne books, Sheppard knows how to press all of the buttons of the readers who are fond of this genre. He keeps the descriptions of the locales, characters, and the tension short and to the point. The narrative of The Specialist is the usual smart and brassy, with a smirk thrown in to break up the frenzy of excitement.

The action sequences are the major selling point of the novel: the rapid fire of the shooters, the positioning of the kill, the rows of bullets making their impact along the walls. Again, Sheppard deftly choreographs the book with scenes of aggression and combat to break up the very assured narrative-- like brief burst of machine gun fire.

It’s almost like a gory snapshot, a reaction image of the carnage, and then he goes on with the program.

Some prudes might object to the bits of lust and carnality in the novel, but he doesn’t go overboard. It’s like his action scenes, smoldering, engaging, and provocative. Here Sheppard holds his naughty Henry Miller punch, only giving the reader just what is necessary: “Call it ardor or outright lust, but I couldn’t help myself…I have to have her again, then and there. With customary assurance I placed my left hand upon her back…slid it down slowly, relishing the warm landscape…caressing, massaging…and gently clasping the firm, fleshy tush. She shivered, moaned quietly and arched her entire, sculpted derriere in response, then turned to face me with a curious gaze.” (

Other than some kick-butt action scenes and brief casual couplings, Sheppard’s The Specialist measures up with any of the other offerings in this genre on the market. It yields a satisfying ending to the caper. However, its length does it a great disservice because some of the chapters appear incomplete, as if the author was in a hurry, only able to fashion a sketch rather than to follow the natural progression of the entire scene.

Sometimes even the gunplay, the dialogue, and the descriptions of the characters fall victim to this tendency. Still, it’s an entertaining, pulsing, powerful book but much too short, as short as a light smooch from your beloved on that first date.

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