Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Concrete Rocket / Philip E. Hickey

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability Kindle: YES    Nook: NO    Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon or B&N store


Philip Hickey has been a practicing attorney for more than thirty-five years. Like the protagonist of The Concrete Rocket, for much of that time he specialized in lawsuits stemming from construction projects. He lives in Seattle with his wife and enjoys spending time with his three children and three grandchildren.


Knocked unconscious while researching the scene of a construction accident for a pending lawsuit, attorney Gus Foxxe finds himself trapped on the top floor of a partially completed skyscraper. Overhearing voices of men who don’t belong there, he realizes they plan to blow up the building unless the owner pays a substantial ransom. Can he foil their plan and escape with his life?


This book is a diamond in the rough. The plot, which might sound implausible, is better than you might think from the description. Most thrillers are unrealistic in some ways – The Concrete Rocket isn’t anymore than most. If terrorists can hijack a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center, this doesn’t seem so farfetched.

Where The Concrete Rocket goes astray is not in the overall storyline or plot, which is good. The characterization is also fine. However, there is too much unneeded description, which bogs the story down, especially in the beginning.

Some people might attribute the over description to the old saw about telling instead of showing. Although I think this expression is overused, it applies here. For example very early in the book Gus is talking on the phone to Tom, a construction manager who had been a witness for him in a previous lawsuit. Tom remembered Gus and says, “I guess you won …” Gus replies, “That’s the case Tom. Your testimony helped us a lot.” Gus should now shut up. Instead, he continues for another eighty-five words summarizing what Tom’s testimony said and details of the settlement. This is both unnatural, Tom knows what he said, and unneeded. That the two have previously worked together is all the back-story we need.

Another example is describing something in too much detail. “Next to the door was a short counter with a coffee maker on the top shelf. A coffee can, creamer, sugar and cups were arranged around it in no apparent order.” Why does the order or lack thereof matter? Do we need to know every single item inside the job shack the author is describing or exactly where each item is? This situation happens repeatedly – every time we encounter a new place, it is described in detail. Many of the details don’t matter.

As the book continued this over attention to unimportant details became less of an issue for me. Possibly, there was less description. In some cases, I think the detail was actually pertinent. Maybe I adjusted in some way. Regardless, I found myself drawn into the story in spite of the extraneous description. Although reading The Concrete Rocket was rough going at first, when I finished I was glad I hadn’t abandoned it.


Contains some sexual content, best for those 17+.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: *** Three stars

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