Double Down by M. Chandler
“Hypothetically, I was wondering how you’d feel about working on the side of the good guys. On a purely contractual and highly erratic basis, mind you.” Little did Simon suspect the explosive consequences that would arise from his offer.
Because now Jeremy Archer has a double: another thief with skills and abilities eerily similar to Jeremy’s own. When this mysterious double falls afoul of Simon and his team, Simon asks for Jeremy’s help, because who better to catch Jeremy Archer than… Jeremy Archer?
If Jeremy Archer is anything, however, he’s unpredictable–and there’s more at stake here than Simon could have imagined. Because in the halls of the FBI ‘double’ has another meaning…
The second book in the Shadow of the Templar series, newly revised and updated for the trade paperback edition!
Double Down is the second book in the Shadow of the Templar series and it’s more than double the length of the previous book. Due to the way the story starts and continues, you’ll absolutely have to have read the first book, Morning Star, to really understand and recognize the characters in this one. The story drops you immediately into the action with Simon and his Team Templar looking at a series of heists with a very remarkable style. In fact the style is so similar to Archer’s that Simon calls in the thief to help catch the other thief. In pure Archer style, not everything is as easy as Simon would like and the antics of his team cause no end of gray hair to their leader.
In the first book the non-stop action and hilarious comic relief of the team set a great tone. Here the second book tries to continue that tone but not as successfully as the first book. The plot is somewhat lost in the meandering and non-stop witty commentary and childish behavior. What was funny and enjoyable in the first book – how this close knit team often hit, joked, and picked on each other – starts to run long in Double Down when the majority of the 350 page book is filled with such antics. While they are enjoyable to start, very quickly I realized the entire book is one long comic joke on each other and the non-stop commentary and hits started to become less funny and more immature and annoying as the book progresses.
Part of this difficulty is that the case presented – the similar thief – is not very action filled. Mostly the team sits around and tries to figure out where the thief will strike and there is a VERY brief action scene when the thief does attempt to steal something, but mostly this is a paperwork filled case. So the story tries to rely on the chemistry of the team and Simon/Archer to carry the entertainment factor, which it does mostly. The antics are indeed funny and the dialogue witty and snappy with classic comments, back and forth banter that has become the hallmark of this series. If this ran long, well a more action filled case would have helped some.
Unfortunately I was disappointed that the characters gained almost no additional depth or development. Team Templar is still not very recognizable from each other, although I am learning who is who more but there is still very little to nothing known about the majority of the team. Their names blend together and their actions are often so similar, it doesn’t really matter who spoke or offered what quip. Although the story is told from Simon’s perspective, there is no development to him. His thoughts, emotions, and motivations are a mystery and he comes across very standoffish in this book. He constantly tells Archer how worthless and unimportant the man is, yet sleeps with him whenever Simon feels like it. The constant mixed messages not only translate to Archer but to the reader, since we’re offered nothing to help understand Simon and his actions. Thus I was left wondering why Archer bothered with Simon. Simon’s not an ass per se, but he is very self-centered and controlling while dismissive of just about everyone. He clearly has his reasons and perhaps more depth than the story is offering but the lack of any internal thoughts – especially considering the length and slow pace of the story – was very disappointing.
There is one character given more depth and he shines in this book, Jeremy Archer. Here more of his past is explained, even as his point of view and motivations are never offered. His past is told while swapping stories and the subtly of his emotions comes through even a very British demeanor. Simon is very good at reading Jeremy and offers his internal thoughts on the actions of the thief, so through Simon the reader gets to know Jeremy even better than Simon. Their chemistry is hot and undeniable but Archer is clearly the driving force of their liaison. Simon’s rigid moral code won’t allow him to “like” Archer and thus the thief must be the continuing factor in the relationship. This works somewhat, but still I was left disappointed that Archer’s reasons and thoughts are hidden. Not too disappointed but I did want to know why Archer stayed with Simon and how he viewed Simon’s confusing actions.
The writing and dialogue is very similar to the first book but the gaps in strong editing show more here. There are way too many superfluous scenes that add nothing to the book, characters, or story but reiterate the Team dynamics. By now this is well established and the yet the book seems to stick to the one trick that works – childish antics. This book could have shined with a much tighter plot and good editing; there are way too many commas and editing problems. I admit I have some trepidation knowing the next two books are 540 and 495 pages respectively. If the action is fast and there is less banter, then what is there will shine. Too much of a good thing can ruin it.
For fans of the first book, I’d still recommend Double Down with only a few hesitations. The entertainment factor is still there but there are more glaring problems in this offering that are not overcome. While I have some concerns about future books, I’ll give it a try and suggest you do the same.
If anyone’s read the entire series and can tell me if the characters are developed in future novels, please let me know! If the characters are given more to them, I’ll definitely continue. If it’s just more banter, I would probably pass. Though I wouldn’t pass on some sex scenes that aren’t fade to black.
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