The Jaffa Cartel by J. Terry Johnson
Engaging characters, beautiful and ancient settings, and a horrible, tragic crime to bring to justice!
When the shipping costs for their materials rise to an excessive amount, and the transportation logistics start taking convoluted routing patterns, executives of Lone Star Electronics decide it's time for a face-to-face with their Israeli supplier. But when small-town Texas attorney and their outside general counsel, Bill Blevins, notes a trend of sizable discrepancies in their invoices as well, he is determined to find out why. The meeting is arranged to happen in Greece, where their international trade consulting company has an office, and the men make the long flight to Athens. However, before their first evening is over, one of their party is murdered.
The Jaffa Cartel was an intriguing story of murder and international organized crime set, for the most part, in Athens but with its roots in Jaffa, Israel, and its significant impact on a small town in central Texas. The author nails the flavor and feel of each location, each so different and distinct from the others, and I felt I was right there in the action.
Many of the characters have long-term, in-depth relationships with each other. Some are linked through university or law school experiences, and many through their membership and attendance at the local church pastored by one of the main characters. Lance Arnold had been in law school with the victim but, interestingly, had traded his shingle for the pulpit of the church in tiny Pecan Village. I enjoyed the little tidbits of church business incorporated into the story and the delicate and very light-handed inclusion of the character's life as a Christian in his actions and observations. Additionally, I especially liked how these old connections between the characters had been maintained over time and across the great distances of the state of Texas, even extending to New York City and Greece.
The author introduces the major players in the cartel in their own chapters, so we know how they got to be where they are in the story and why. As the book unfolds through these characters' eyes, we are privy to their plans, so the book is not a whodunnit but a "will they get away with it" tale. There are some really bad actors in the bunch, so you're not rooting for them to succeed. However, Leah Melamed's involvement in the whole thing is tragic. I hoped from the beginning for her to escape the cartel's grasp. The Greek detectives in charge of the murder investigation, Inspectors Giorgos Papadakis and Sophia Baros, are just delightful. I really liked their partnership and their systematic investigation. I was surprised and entertained by how the inspectors came to find out what readers already knew. I certainly wouldn't mind reading additional stories featuring this pair.
With plenty of engaging characters to watch, beautiful and ancient places as the setting, and a horrible, tragic crime to bring to justice, I recommend THE JAFFA CARTEL to mystery readers who enjoy a small-town feel combined with some armchair traveling. I so enjoyed reading this story.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.