Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
Author Kevin Scott Olson packs a lot into this short story: a holocaust survivor, a Navy SEAL, terrorism, and an unexpected but not unwelcome flirtation at an out-of-the-way motel in the middle of nowhere.
The story opens on a dark, stormy night with Michael Quinn almost meeting his untimely end on the Pacific Coast Highway. After almost being killed by an out-of-control tractor trailer on a deserted and dangerous stretch of the highway, he finds himself at Paradise, a throwback to the roadside motels of the 1950s, complete with a flashing neon turquoise sign.
After checking in, he makes his way to the Paradise Lounge, where while enjoying a beer, he encounters a former college professor of his and the professor’s young traveling companion Rebekah, who is the granddaughter of one of the professor’s friends.
The professor is Dr. Benjamin Hartman, Oxford professor, holocaust survivor, and Nobel Peace Prize winner who is about to be honored with another prestigious international award. He had also been a mentor to Michael and had a big influence on Michael’s decision to become a Navy SEAL.
When the professor retires for the night, Michael and Rebekah enjoy some time in the lounge playing pool and flirting with one another. However, trouble is looming as they are confronted by four dangerous looking men who try to pick up Rebekah and pick a fight with Michael.
What ensues is a night full of intrigue and action, along with twists and surprises as the reader learns that the men Michael and Rebekah encounter in the lounge are not just local troublemakers, but part of something much bigger, with their sights set on something more than just getting a girl in the bar.
If not for Michael’s close call on the highway a few hours prior, which caused him to pull into The Paradise when he happened upon it, and his feeling that almost dying once on a dangerous, deserted highway on a stormy night was enough reason for him not to tempt fate further, the group of men might have succeeded with their sinister plans.
You will honestly not be able to put this one down until you finish it. So it is a good thing that it is a story that can be finished in an hour (or less, if you’re a fast reader).
One caveat to this one: the flirty scenes are a bit cheesy, almost funny, but perhaps written that way on purpose since Rebekah is a young college co-ed obviously smitten with Michael. However, I don’t feel they take away from the overall story or enjoyment of it.
A bonus: if you enjoy this story, the character of Michael Quinn is actually based on a character in another novel by Kevin Scott Olson, “Night of the Bonfire,” which was an international best seller.
But don’t worry; I don’t believe you’ll miss anything if you haven’t already read the novel. I didn’t, and I found that Michael’s character is developed well enough in the story, complete with a back story on him and the professor, that you get a very good idea of who he is and what motivates him.