A Book Spy Review: ‘Blood Flag’ by Steve Martini

Blood Flad by Steve MartiniPaul Madriani and his partner, Harry Hinds, are just coming off a huge cash-pulling job that left them financially set for the rest of their lives. But rather than retire to a beach somewhere, the two work even harder in an effort to rebuild their law firm. They hire a young, smart, and promising legal assistant named Sadie “Sofia” Leon, and are taking on new clients. 

One of those potential clients, a woman named Emma Brauer, is accused of killing her elderly father in what’s commonly known as a “mercy killing.” The police theorize that Brauer killed her father, an army veteran who was in World War II, because he was suffering from diabetes, emphysema, and COPD–the result of a lifetime of smoking cigarettes.

But Emma swears she didn’t do it. 

The problem is that Emma is dumber than a box of rocks. Seriously. In fact, she’s so stupid that her talking actually took me out of the story for a moment. As she sits with Madriani and Hinds, I facepalmed more than once as she continues asking them “but why would they think I killed him?” each time new evidence against her is brought up. And I don’t mean minor stuff, I mean damning well-duh-that-looks-bad-you-idiot type of stuff. 

Then, just when I thought I had Emma figured out, she surprised me again by revealing that on top of everything else going on, her home was robbed. The robbery, of course, took place after her father received a suspicious package in the mail that contained a key to a lockbox somewhere–and creepy late night phone calls from somebody who claimed to be an “old Army buddy” of her father’s.

Oh, and guess what? Emma didn’t report the break-in to the police, even though the house was completely ransacked.  Of course, she didn’t… 

Just when Emma’s stupidity is nearly too much to bear, she tells Madriani and Hines that she believes her father’s death is somehow related to the phone calls and the package he received. Well, duh, Emma! 

The conversation at Madriani’s office comes to an abrupt end when the police show up to arrest her. Honestly, by that point, I was just thrilled to see her go. Steve Martini may have intended to make Emma deliberately unlikeable; in fact, I hope he did. If so, he did one heckuva job! 

The story moves away from Emma and begins to pick up speed. Sofia, the new legal assistant, is very likable (the total opposite of Emma) and a strong addition to the team. Her honesty, which is highlighted early on, and ability to multi-task make her a valuable asset. 

The case (and quite frankly, the book) takes an emotional turn when Sofia runs an errand over to Emma’s house–and is later found dead. Martini does a terrific job of making Sofia relatable, and packs in just enough backstory to make her death quite sad and impactful. It also gave the plot somewhere to go, as Madriani is upset and determined to get to the bottom of whatever is going on. 

A little digging reveals that Emma’s father isn’t the only member of his former military unit to die under odd circumstances. Madriani discovers that Mr. Brauer may have been killed because of a link between his old unit and an artifact–that Hitler himself once used as a talisman–known as the “Blood Flag.” Worse, it seems that several groups of extremists are after the flag, and will stop at nothing to get their hands on it. 

Paul Madriani must race to unravel the rest of the mystery behind the Blood Flag, who exactly is after it, and why they want it so badly.

With plenty of surprises waiting just around each corner, Blood Flag is a fast-paced thriller that picks up steam on its way to a shocking, climactic ending that most readers will not see coming. 

My thoughts

Just in case I wasn’t clear before, I really hated Emma Brauer. As soon as she gets arrested, though, the story really picks up and comes together. Steve Martini is a veteran storyteller who knows how to keep readers off-balance. The problem I’ve had with him is that his books always seem to be very hit or miss. So while I thought last year’s The Enemy Inside was better, Blood Flag is far from his worst. 

That said, parts of the story are pretty obvious, which takes away from the overall shock value–at least until the ending, which I admit certainly surprised me.

The other issue I had with Blood Flag is that parts of it were very similar to Matthew Betley’s Overwatch which, in my opinion, is a much better novel overall–the difference being that Martini’s book is written to be more of a legal thriller (whereas Betley’s is a military thriller). 

All in all, if you enjoy legal thrillers, Blood Flag would make for a nice beach read or a good story to crack open on an airplane or during vacation.

Book Details

(Note: Blood Flag is the fourteenth novel in Steve Martini’s bestselling Paul Madriani series, following last year’s The Enemy Inside.)

Author: Steve Martini

Pages: 328 (Hardcover)

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: May 17, 2016 (Order now!)

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