On one hand, it’s never wise to get hopes up for a series that you know is going to be nothing more than a bunch of Mack Bolan novels on steroids. On the other, when the series becomes much better than anticipated and the characters are completely believable (albeit in the fictional sort of way), you expect something more from a series. That said, Tiger by the Tail is a horrible addition to the Paladin of Shadows series by John Ringo.
Picking up a co-author along the way (newcomer Ryan Sear), the series takes a twist as Mike Harmon (aka “Ghost”, aka “Kildar”) and his Keldaran special operations team (if you haven’t read any book in this series thus far, start with Kildar. Ghost is, technically, the first book of the series but is… uh… not for the faint of heart and really doesn’t add much to the series until you finish Unto the Breach. Only then should a noob — that would be someone new to the series — go back and read Ghost) are currently taking on pirates in the Asian Pacific near Myanmar (Burma). “Practice” seems to be the best way to describe the operations that the Kildar is currently performing, though there are hints that things in the South Pacific aren’t all that they appear. Stumbling onto a criminal enterprise far bigger than anything the Kildar could imagine, Harmon and his team push through the underbelly of the Asian criminal underworld to find out the truth — and stop the bad guys once more.
The action is there. The suspense is there. Dialogue, pop culture references, nerdy “in” jokes… they’re all there. However, this book is lacking something profound. There is not sense of “soul” to this book. Mike Harmon is cool, but he lacks something defining in this book, something that makes him the anti-hero we root for. Anyone familiar with the series will know that Harmon is a special kind of evil, one that is the most dangerous towards other kinds of evil (see Dexter). This book takes this away and gives us juvenile jerk material instead, which is somewhat of a surprise. Sexuality in these books isn’t hidden (trust me, I’ve read Ghost) but in this book it is more portrayed as a teenager discovering his dad’s nudie books in the shed. Before there was rhyme and reason why the Kildar randomly banged women (“rapist in his heart” is a start… I never claimed that they were good reasons) but now, it comes across as someone deciding to slather it across the page because they can.
The Keldara are nothing more than cardboard cutouts this time around, and Chief Adams seems to have reverted to a drunken Navy SEAL set loose on an unsuspecting town of debauchery (which was funny a few books ago; now it’s just something to add to the word count). The villains who are featured for only a short time before the Kildar offs them seem to be better drawn than the actual heroes of the Keldara teams, and the entire book comes across as something that started as fanfic and somehow got published with the original author’s name on it. Before you fire up your torches and pick up those pitchforks, let me explain.
I like the majority of John Ringo’s books. He has an extraordinary gift for gab, to draw the reader in with nothing more than a few lines of dialogue. The only other writer I know of who seems to be able to pull that off without much effort is Joss Whedon. You can always tell a Ringo book apart from the rest of the field because the dialogue is witty and snappy, and can tell a scene without going into expressive detail about every surrounding. Tiger by the Tail is missing this gab, the easy conversation which helps propel the story along. Some of the dialogue is downright painful.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone but the most ardent fan. There’s potential, and this book does move the series along. As itself, though Tiger by the Tail is a perfect miss and very disappointing addition.
—Reviewed by Jason