Project Catchstar, Cassadine Press, a novel in e-book format written and copyright by M. Rodgers.
Claire Everson was a rising anthropology student working on her PhD and assumingly on her way to an Assistant Professorship under the favored guidance of her professor Dr. Markham. Suddenly, she is accused of selling valuable artifacts on the Blackmarket, supposedly by her mentor who disappears. However, the charges cannot be proven but the subsequent notoriety and shame are too much and Claire flees to Australia. Here she buys a beat up old boat and tries her hand as a freelance explorer diving for artifacts. She is befriended by Joe Ronston, owner of the immensely popular although bare bones type of local bar. Joe is a large, heavily muscled good looking guy who teachers her some basic survival tactics. She is attracted, but his interests are difficult to interpret. On one of her exploration dives she discovers a gold statue of some antiquity. Suddenly a linebacker sized diver appears pointing a spear gun at her. She throws the artifact at him and escapes. Later he approaches her at the bar with the figure. There is an altercation, Joe interferes, a young woman named Johnnie, apparently a companion of the linebacker sized diver whose name is Theo, is stopped from joining the discussion by Tiny Tim, a 6’8” 300 pound native Australian, owner of Tiny Topnotch Architecture and Joe’s personal friend. From this point, the story becomes an involved tale of discovery of remnants of meteorites that have elements that provide unusual activity. The discovery leads to establishment of Catchstar Project that attempts to mine these elements on meteorites. The project is set up by a Terry O’Malley who has a U.S. Senator in his pocket but also is dealing with China, and a very notorious Russian Mafia Boss. The tale is further complicated in that the reader learns that Joe is a former Special Forces member whose history goes back to when he and O’Malley both were members and Terry ‘threw him under a bus’ when both had been involved with an operation involving the Mafioso.
This is a fast moving thriller with an unusual plot and interesting characters. Joe and Tiny’s activities occasionally are disappointing as not quite up to a level one would expect of such well-trained operators. Claire’s often is foolhardy to say the least and borders on a tendency to remind one of a much earlier generation of the early cinematic portrayals of ‘damsels in distress’. Other ‘loose ends’ also exist. However, most thriller lovers undoubtedly will overlook all of these faults because of appeal of the protagonist and her situation and the pace and direction of the action,
This is the first book in a new series entitled The Claire Everson Adventures with a few pages of Book 2, Codename: Cryptid included at the end of this present tale.
4* Interesting, fast paced thriller with nascent romance.