Reviewed by Molly Martin
by Charles Neff
Paperback: 316 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1594579424
Charles Neff’s Hidden Impact originates with the frontward access of the narrator’s Atlantic Airlines flight swinging out to let soggy stickiness to seep into the compartment. Bored, khaki clad customs officials gave the narrator’s day pack and larger bag a perfunctory glance. Not a lot had improved during the 32 years the protagonist had been away. Mid June in Nicaragua, and his having a 90 day tourist card Norberg knew could remain in the country until the middle of September 2004 and, NO liquor, tobacco, drugs and firearms, and the former Peace Corps worker was on his way. Hotel del Parque, the meeting place where Norberg had stayed during Peace Corps days had survived mostly intact the 1972 earthquake. The long day of travel from Bangor, connecting flights to Boston, Miami and Managua; Norberg was all set for a decent meal, calm late afternoon and a timely bed time before setting out for La Prada, the community where he had toiled during those Peace Corps days.Meeting, not quite by chance, with old contact Kris Behr, set in motion basis for the tale intertwined into this work. Sighting of a plane crashed some 17 years ago has been located in proximity to La Prada. Behr believes a diary penned by himself back in the day when he was working with CIA in Nicaragua during the Sandinista/Contra fighting may have been aboard the plane. Behr is persuaded the pilot removed the journal from his desk during a get-together with CIA operatives. Behr wants Norberg to recover and bring the journal to him. Finding the journal after it has been absent almost 2 decades is troubled with hazard as others, as determined as Norberg, are correspondingly searching for the record, and are willing to murder to expose its location.
I appreciated this well written political whodunit, characters are often multidimensional, well developed and convincing. The bad guys are filled with intrigue, slyness and not much to commend them, sundry of the characters fall into a cold-blooded, bad guy crowd. Hidden Impact is a well-crafted narrative chockablock with turns and twists. I enjoyed meeting each of the numerous characters through the eyes of Norberg as he gauges those he had known before along with those who are new to his experience on this expedition. Populated with CIA operatives, dedicated American colleagues, Nicaraguan and activists, devious millionaires, and their insensitive associates; the characters are believable, plausible and acceptable.
Surroundings are adeptly fashioned, mugginess, sticky redolence and all, established against a milieu of trickery, cunning and maneuvering forward plot twists as they fuse into one another effortlessly. Narrative provides a glimpse into various settings from the minor village of Norberg’s Peace Corps days, as well as the jungle forest and elsewhere; the account continues at rapid speed. Managua and its populace, a high-priced country club, and even the U.S. Embassy all figure in the work.
Neff has constructed a well-paced, page turner certain to keep the reader engaged from the opening paragraph as Norberg debarks from his plane moves full tilt to the concluding paragraphs as he plans ending his affairs in the United States before returning to Nicaragua where he hopes to inaugurate a new, dynamic life filled with optimism, friends and perhaps even a companion with whom he can share his life.
I found it easy to identify with Norberg, he is the everyman who wants to do right, and will fight, often unsuccessfully for what he believes in. He keeps believing there is some essential good out there worth fighting for. A sentiment of authenticity encompasses the work. Jim Nordberg is an amiable personality filled with many of the same warts, foibles and mishaps as seem to befall us all.
Reviewed by: Molly Martin
20+ years classroom teacher
20+ years classroom teacher