David Morrell's novels about Cavanaugh, owner of Global Protective Services, have a light touch compared to the author's mighty 1980s and 1990s compound thrillers. Cavanaugh finds the biggest challenge to be making his clients take orders of their own good.
In 2003's The Protector he is saddled with a client who knows everything about chemically induced fear, and barely gets clear of the crossfire. In 2010's The Naked Edge, a hymn to bladed weapons and razored battles of wits, he goes up against a man who, once his friend, may as well now be his doppelganger.
Blue Murder (2003)
"Blue Murder" is a short story in which Cavanaugh tries to educate and save a prospective client despite her best wishes.
"I don't like conspicuous vehicles. At Global Protective Services, we use cars so popular they're anonymous. Tauruses. The ones the Ford racing team uses. High-performance engines with suspensions to match. Armored., with bullet-resistant windows."
"I wouldn't be caught dead in a Taurus."
"I've had numerous clients who've experienced the reverse effect."
Morrell sweetens the pot for himself by offering a few deft swipes at the monopolization of the book publishing industry along the way. A mild, mellow whodunit.
The Attitude Adjuster (2006)
This is a fine, fast, muscular thriller about a road crew worker named Barry Pollard. Barry is sick of the arrogance and contempt he receives from those who look down on him.
....In movie theaters, people wouldn't stop talking.
"That cop better stay out of that warehouse," a woman said, pointing at the screen.
"Yeah, he should radio for backup," the man next to her said.
"He didn't radio for backup when he searched the abandoned house, either, the woman said.
"Well, if he did, the stupid writers wouldn't have a plot."
"Please, be quiet," Barry said behind them.
"And look at this. The lights don't work, and he doesn't have a flashlight, but he's going inside anyhow."
"Please, don't talk during the movie," Barry said.
"Yep, here's the vampire sneaking up on—"
"SHUT THE HELL UP!"
The man turned and glared. "Have you got a problem, buddy?"
"This isn't your living room! I'm trying to—"
"You want me to shut up?"
"That's what I've been telling you."
Barry left the theater, waited outside, followed the couple home, put a ski mask over his head, and taught them to shut up by knocking their teeth out. Then he smashed all their TV sets and set fire to their car. He took money from the guy's wallet and the woman's purse. Another job well done.
Barry decides to auction his skills as a thug and vigilante online, seeking a little payback against those he feels slight him in everyday life. His career as an adjuster of attitudes is short-lived once he appears on Cavanaugh's radar.
The Controller (2011)
Dant is an arrogant NYC financial Master of the Universe known for flying too close to the sun. Cavanaugh has to figure out how to protect him, then find out how to protect the people he has financially ruined.
....The bushes rustled. Gradually a figure emerged.
But he didn't look anything like Dant. He was bald and bearded. His nose had a bony ridge. A scar disfigured his neck.
"Never heard of anyone getting cosmetic surgery to look ugly," Jamie said. "Since you went to all this trouble, why didn't you try to pretend to be someone else when we arrived?"
"I was prepared to until I saw who was getting off the plane." Dant's expression was sour. "I figured I could fool most people, but not anybody who spent up-close time with me and specializes in paying attention."
"Yeah, those camera-friendly blue eyes of yours are hard to disguise," Jamie said. "Tinted lenses might have done the job, but I suspect you forget to put them on day after day when only the natives are around to see you. Even with tinted lenses, you wouldn't have fooled us, though. Your cosmetic surgeon told us what you look like now. "
"But . . ."
"Yes, I know—you thought you'd guaranteed his silence by promising him a quarter-million dollars a year," Jamie said. "The trouble is, the second check you sent him bounced. Worse, he believed what you told him about how well your companies were doing. To impress his clients, he said he had a stock tip that couldn't go wrong. They invested heavily. When your house of cards collapsed, the clients blamed him for their losses. His practice is ruined."
"There are plenty like him," Cavanaugh added. "Thousands of people lost their jobs because of you. Their pensions are worthless. They can't pay their mortgages or feed their families. Their lives are destroyed. All because you did whatever you wanted whenever you felt like it."
"Big gains require big risks."
"Keep telling yourself that in prison. Did you figure the first three attempts to kill you were only the beginning? Novak was behind them, incidentally. He couldn't stand you anymore than anybody else does. Did the explosion at your Cape Cod property give you the idea to arrange for the last two explosions on your own, so when your boat blew apart, people would decide you were blown apart also and finally give up searching for you?"
"Something like that." Dant glared. "How the hell did you find me?"
"Once we figured out what you were doing, it became a matter of asking the right questions," Jamie answered. "Naturally you'd want to change your appearance. After that, you'd want to hole up someplace remote for a couple of years until you felt it was safe to return with a new identity. What property did your companies own that would be useful to you, particularly in terms of your appetite for female companionship? We spent months going through your records. One of your shadow companies bought this island just before your empire started to teeter. That seemed a good clue. So did the half-dressed native women."
"Damn it, why couldn't you leave me alone? I gave you a generous check."
"Which bounced. But that's not what pissed me off," Cavanaugh said. "I told you protecting people is a very personal thing for me, but you treated it like a joke."
9 May 2020