Badger Games by Jon A. Jackson

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The book opens with the disappearance of a man named Franko Bradovich in Kosovo. Franko, a native Montanan posing as a local, was a spy of sorts, an operative who was helping the Lucani (a loose affiliation of DEA, FBI, CIA, etc. agents operating outside the law) bust a drug trafficking scheme from Bulgaria through Kosovo and Serbia to Europe. Franko was living with the family of a farmer named Daliljaj (and was in love with the farmer’s daughter Fedima) and an apparently helpful American-raised Slav (Bozi Bazok), who’s become part of the Serb army’s shock troops, has warned Franko that the army was headed toward them with bloodshed in mind. Later, though, Franko, who’s been posing as a drug trafficker, is brought in by local police for questioning and is beaten—making Bazok’s helpfulness questionable at best. Either way, Franko can’t really afford to stick around. Bazok agrees to help him and, reluctantly, Daliljaj, Fedima, and their relatives, escape the sweep, in exchange for the massive quantities of drugs he believes Franko is hiding. But Bazok betrays him and slaughters Daliljaj and all of Fedima’s other family while they wait for Franko to return with transport. When Franko returns, Bazok has disappeared, taking Fedima with him.

At this point the Lucani contact Joe Service. They ask him to go to Butte and see what he can see among the Serb population there. He and Helen Sedlacek travel from Detroit to Montana and start asking around for Franko Bradoviches (and permutations of the name). They find a Frank Oberavich and while he’s not their man, he does provide them with excellent food, wine, and home-grown pot. And, it turns out, “Franko” from Kosovo is really Frank Oberavich’s cousin Paulie and has been living on his property in a tent.

Helen, Joe, and the Lucani aren’t the only ones who are curious about “Franko’s” whereabouts. A woman named Jamala King, a new Lucani, comes out to help them, and they’re going to need all the help they can get because the alcoholic, bloodthirsty Bazok is headed toward Butte, convinced Franko was holding out on a major drug stash, and anxious to prevent him testifying to a war crimes tribunal about his slaughter of the Daliljaj family. Paulie, of course, blames himself for the deaths of Fedima and her family. What follows is a deadly cat-and-mouse game on a Montana mountain, as each side attempts to find the other first. It culminates in a terrifying night in abandoned mine tunnels and a bloody ambush in which one of the group protecting Paulie is revealed to be an impostor.

About Jon A. Jackson

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JON A. JACKSON grew up in northern Michigan and Detroit. His Mulheisen novels include The Diehard, The Blind Pig, Grootka, Hit on the House, Deadman, Dead Folks, and Man with an Axe.
Published December 1, 2007 by Grove Press. 340 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Review: Readers expecting an appearance by Detective Sergeant Mulheisen in this ninth entry of the mystery series, Badger Games, will be disappointed.

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