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The Critical Element (James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series Book 5)
 
 

The Critical Element (James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series Book 5) [Kindle Edition]

John L. Betcher
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

FROM A USA TODAY BESTELLING AUTHOR.

The scientific community declared the North Korean “weather satellite” dead on arrival in space. And until recently, the scientists were right. But now the satellite has awakened and the Kim regime wastes no time in launching its secret space-based weapon against the American mainland. Unfortunately, the North Koreans’ aim is bad and their package lands in the middle of nowhere—Ottawa County, Minnesota—where the deadly delivery sets in motion a sequence of events even its creators in Pyongyang could never have anticipated.

James “Beck” Becker has retired from a twenty-year career serving his country as a military intelligence operative and now practices law in his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota. When local huckster Rodney Holton seeks his legal advice regarding a meteor strike on Rodney’s farm in rural Red Wing, Beck suspects that the “meteor” may be more (or possibly less) than a natural phenomenon—a suspicion that is confirmed when the FBI rolls into town looking for the mysterious space rock.

But before the authorities can get their hands on the meteor, it vanishes from Rodney’s farm, leaving Beck and the feds behind to deal with an angry farmer and a troubling circumstance—Rodney’s cattle have begun to get sick.

About the Author

USA TODAY, Amazon Kindle and Nook Bestselling Author, John L. Betcher, holds a Bachelor's Degree, cum laude, in English from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. He has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. Mr. Betcher has published an award-winning series of "Becker" suspense/thriller novels. The first five are THE 19TH ELEMENT, THE MISSING ELEMENT, THE COVERT ELEMENT, THE EXILED ELEMENT and THE CRITICAL ELEMENT. He has also authored the award-winning spiritual phenomenon, A HIGHER COURT.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 635 KB
  • Print Length: 327 pages
  • Publisher: John L. Betcher; 1 edition (1 Aug 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EARNQ2I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #187,652 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Amazon TOP 100 and Nook TOP 100 Bestselling Author, John L. Betcher, holds a Bachelor's Degree, cum laude, in English from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. He has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota.

Mr. Betcher has published an award-winning series of "Becker" suspense/thriller novels. The first five are THE 19TH ELEMENT, THE MISSING ELEMENT, THE COVERT ELEMENT, THE EXILED ELEMENT, and THE CRITICAL ELEMENT. He has also authored the award-winning spiritual phenomenon, A HIGHER COURT.

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5.0 out of 5 stars This could really happen! 1 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Rodney slid back in the chair, his hands gripping the armrests. he cracked his neck to both sides before beginning his tale. "It was yesterday afternoon," he said. "Sunday...and I was out on the John Deere checking my fields, you know...and all of a sudden I hear this sound. It was a kinda weird sound, you know?" "It was kinda like whoosh-thud...tumble, tumble, tumble," he said. "So I got up and looked toward the sound." ..."something was knocking down my corn"... "This thing, whatever it was, knocked down maybe thirty or forty feet of head-high corn stalks, in a straight line," he continued. "I saw the last ones go down." He clapped one flattened hand downward onto the other. "Then all was quiet."

..."I stand up straight and look around," he said, "my wrench hand at the ready. But there's no sign of man nor beast." ... So I stoop down and start pawing through the grass and then...just when I'm about to give up, the back of my hand hits something big and solid in the grass." ..."I decided to give the thing a kick with my boot." "And voila,... there it was." "It was a meteor!"

Rodney Holton was a local farmer known in the city of Red Wing, Minnesota for his flim-flammery, so when he recited his story to Attorney James Becker, Beck had his doubts as to how much was true and how much wasn't. And to assure his belief he and his wife Beth decided to pay a visit to Rodney's farm where he displayed his 'meteor' and charged $20.00 per person to view. Yep, Rodney was up to his old tricks again. The taped off area that contained burned grass and what appeared to be a bowling ball dug into the ground didn't quite fit the story he had relayed to Beck.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 18 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great series of books
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this author.... 1 Oct 2013
By PWG - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love this author and he has never disappointed me in any of his books. This time out Beck gets involved in two terrorist planned attacks. He has his beautiful wife, ex -CIA, Gunner, Bull and FBI Agent to help along the way plus several interesting characters. The book moves along and I read it in one day. The only negative I saw was Bull was not in the story enough!! I have a crush on his character :)

I can't wait for the next book and if you like spies and funny characters with a little clean sex thrown in READ THIS BOOK.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suspense, Thrills, and chills... 20 Nov 2013
By Lori Caswell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
James "Beck" Becker has retired from a twenty-year career serving his country as a military intelligence operative and now practices law in his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota. His wife, Beth, a retired CIA code-cracker, takes care of things at home. They have worked out a comfortable routine for their retirement. That is until the call comes call for a little of their expert assistance.

This time their help is needed just down the road with a unusual finding but it quickly turns into so much more. Rodney Holton, a local farmer, comes to Beck for some advice regarding a "meteor strike" on his land. Beck knows Holton will do anything to make a buck so he is quite skeptical about this "meteor". But then the FBI comes to town and before they even get to see it the "meteor" disappears. This is just the tip of the iceberg as Holden's cows start to get sick, and this so called "meteor" may have something to do with North Korean "weather satellite" that everyone thought was just a piece of junk floating in space.

Dollycas's Thoughts
This is one of my favorite series. John Betcher just keeps getting better and better. I love these characters. This mild mannered retired couple, Beck and his wife Beth, kicking back on the porch enjoying the beautiful Minnesota views one minute, tracking down terrorists the next. This time the target is practically in their own backyard. Beth works her magic electronically with her computer and Beck tracks down the leads. A fabulous team.

Betcher has a talent of writing stories the draw you in and don't let go. He takes his characters and drops them into these unbelievable situations and makes you believe them. The world today is a dangerous place but those of us in the Midwest always feel pretty safe. All of Betcher's books have that ripped from the headlines feel. This one will have you looking at one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world in a whole new light and may have you rethinking your plans to about many places we travel without a second thought.

Suspense, thrills and chills. This book delivers all. It also includes a touch of humor that keeps all the drama from from getting overly intense. We also see a compassionate side of Beck surface more in this installment. The plot and subplots are tight and perfectly paced. I highly recommend you grab this book today and escape into it as quickly as possible. My Beck fix has been filled for the moment. I can't wait for the next adventure!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Critical Element 11 Oct 2013
By S.L. Coelho - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This talented author has worked magic again with his recent book, The Critical Element. The gorgeous, eye-catching cover is a morsel of what you'll be treated to in this riveting novel. The prologue provides evidence the story will be suspenseful, as one has come to expect from the series; but a lighthearted, comical slant will have readers engrossed in the growing mystery of a `meteor' which has fallen from space. A pertinent plot and sub-plot; woven with realistic threats of bio-terrorism, and smuggling, is executed with skill in this must-read tale. The originality with which the planned threats are presented is a little unnerving, and is an unsettling reminder that a twisted, self-serving mind bent on accomplishing terrible goals knows no bounds. Grab the entire series!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Critical Element 5 Sep 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Critical Element: John Betcher

When Air Force Lieutenant Michael Avery pours himself a cup of lukewarm coffee little does he know that the events that follow would wake him up faster than the caffeine in the coffee? A slow night, monitoring devices operating normally and then in flash something changed. Staring at the screen realizing what is happening Avery's console light sup with an alert reflecting a missile launch. Could this be real? Could it be something out of the ordinary or a simple anomaly? What about a simple malfunction or is it something else? After assessing the information and getting confirmation from the Aegis Ballistic Missile Detection System, he realizes this is for real and in fact a ballistic missile was launched by believe it or not North Korea. But, would they be successful and what is the real reason for this missile launch? As the information began to filter in and the threat unfolding the room where he was working filled with numerous personnel each trying to find out the true source, where it might land and any immediate threat to a specific population. As Avery checked the altitude of this missile he began to relax realizing that the intended target Philippines was safe. But, like everything else when the all-clear signal was sounded and the danger averted we often become complacent and keep on the alert. The are nine commands in the United States Strategic Command including detachments of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the SSN or the U.S. Space Surveillance Network each working to stop any attacks on the United States along with our allies by focusing, monitoring and "tracking air and space-based threats." But, when things cool down and the danger had passed many thought that once again Northern Korea failed in its attempt to launch a missile. But, like everything else in life sometimes things are not always what they appear to be and the end result of this as the Korean's stated, "weather satellite," although some though dead, many claimed to be in violation of the United Security Council resolutions clearly aimed at "restricting the rogue states' nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions." But, what no one realizes that sometimes patience wins out and the end result is definitely not what anyone expects. So, where does this missile land? What happens when it reaches its optimal height? What if you were looking through a telescope and saw two things: one a missing panel and the second a perfect sphere as this thing comes tumbling down.

Rodney Holton loves to milk people for all they are worth. His many ventures are so outlandish that when he hits attorney James Becker with his latest what most would think half-baked idea, you just won't believe what he claims he saw, where it wound up and how it might link to our missing missile. How would you react if a meteor landed right smack dap in the middle of your farm? Well, if you were Rodney you would hire a lawyer for a dollar, demand that he keep your conversation in confidence and then find a way to make money. The conversation between Rodney and Beck is priceless as you listen to his reasoning and try to follow his logic. But, there is much more. Although Rodney claims that this meteor fell in the middle of his farm, he heard it fall but never saw it. This bothers Beck and sends him to seek the advice of his close friend and Chief Deputy Sheriff Gunner. But, not before he and so many others pay Rodney twenty dollars a head just to see this thing in person.

The setting is Red Wing, Minnesota, the meteor set amid some burnt grass and the area cordoned off with tape so that it looks like a bowling ball fell from the sky. But, this would not be a mystery if everything fit into a nice neat package, and this does not. Something about Rodney's story does not ring true, hence the visit to Gunner to discuss what is nagging at him and hopefully together they might find the answer.

Sometimes events connect and things happen that cause people to take actions that they normally would not. Kent Evans was once a prosperous veterinary pharmacist supplies medicines, vaccines and needed supplies to farmers to keep their livestock healthy. But, what happens when the economy takes dive, some decide to cut corners and preventive veterinary care is not of upmost important to farmers. Making sure their cattle remain healthy, not ordering the needed supplies from people like Kent, allows them to cut corners and hopefully keep the beef industry healthy without the services of this man. Bills have to be paid, and costs are rising and Kent Evans decides to push the envelope, think out of his dangerous box and develops a way to reignite his business but at what cost and to whom? As the story develops and you hear his plot you begin to wonder just how far he will go to increase his sales and hide what he's doing from his family. A short trip to South Africa might solve his problem and what he manages to bring back might cause a pandemic that would not only create havoc in the beef industry but would ruin another man's livestock and life. Infecting cows with Hoof and Mouth Disease was the mode of infection, just how you won't believe as one man carries out his plot bringing back this strain which comes from a South African tribal farming community and getting to the United States took some great ingenuity and expert planning. Just how this all ties in and how did Kent learn more about ways to contaminate animals, the vaccines being created and more is quite interesting. Just how one "meteor," this disease and a missile attack connects is the creation of author John Betcher in his latest blockbuster novel: The Critical Element.

Enter in FBI agent Costa and his thoughts on the meteor as we find out that it has been stolen from Rodney's farm and the events that follow tie in the missing North Korean Missile to this meteor. Added in Rodney's cattle comes down with Hoof and Mouth Disease and the real mystery is how they were infected and by whom. "Foot-and-mouth disease or hoof-and-mouth disease (Aphthae epizooticae) is an infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic and wild bovids. The virus causes a high fever for two or three days, followed by blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness. Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has severe implications for animal farming, since it is highly infectious and can be spread by infected animals through aerosols, through contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing or feed, and by domestic and wild predators.[1] Its containment demands considerable efforts in vaccination, strict monitoring, trade restrictions and quarantines, and occasionally the elimination of millions of animals." So, when Rodney's cattle become infected with this disease what happens will deplete his herd, cause great concern and hopefully according to one man increase his income. But, there is much more as one Korean man is charged with the responsibility to take apart the missile, find out what it is comprised and make sure its contents are safely secured. Within the confines of this object the author relates is white powder mixed with another substance, which is also white. Why would anyone want to land a missile in Minnesota? What is their major plan and who is the person that wants to enact a bioterrorist attack on America soil? Is the mastermind the North Korean Dictator who expects his word and wishes to be followed without any pause for thought or questioning? With the help of his old friend Bull, his wife Beth and the Deputy Sheriff, Beck can often circumvent the rules and regulations of other agencies and get the job done himself. Two halves make a whole and the center of the missile was filled with a dangerous white powder but another powder of substance of undiluted powder needs to be found. Just what was this critical element? Millions might be obliterated if this powder finds the right breeding ground. Linking the missile to attack on Rodney's cattle the team of experts find the cause and where the disease came from surprises them. But, would North Korea be so creative as to create this epidemic? What about the contents of the capsule?

When Beck with the help of his wife Beth learn more about the location of the man who sent two emails to the Gunner in order to get some publicity for his Hoof and Mouth Stunt, another group will try and locate the Korean man's wife and see just how she fits into the picture. Learning more about the white powder, the fact that only half was found within the capsule and the rest was something else alerted Beck to the fact that the FBI needs to look closer at the wife and find out where the other half of the white powder is and when and where would the threat take place.

What about a huge Mall to set up a chain reaction that would go unnoticed for a while until people got really sick? What about trying to contain whatever this substance was in without causing a commotion? When Beck and Bull narrow down the distance between them and the possible threat it takes a whole army plus the FBI to complete the task, bring it under control and hopefully get those involved. While they are at one end of the state Gunner and his rookie cop Kyle are at another hopefully stopping Kent before he completes what he hopes would help increase his veterinary medical supply business. As Beth is his computer encryption expert, Gunner takes matters into his own hands to get one man so desperate that he was willing to risk more than must the lives of some livestock.

An ending that will keep you guessing at they race the clock to stop two terrorist attacks from happening but will they get there in time. Just what is the critical element that ties both of these cases together? I have it figured out but the answer is classified and limited to those with clearance. So, in order to find out what happens you will just have to read this novel for yourself. Critical Element: One outstanding novel filled with surprises, twists, turns, Beck's special brand of sarcasm and humor and characters that you definitely want to meet again. What is next for Beck, Beth and the rest? Only five star author John Betcher has the answer and he's not giving anything away at this time.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This could really happen! 1 Sep 2013
By Martha A. Cheves - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Rodney slid back in the chair, his hands gripping the armrests. he cracked his neck to both sides before beginning his tale. "It was yesterday afternoon," he said. "Sunday...and I was out on the John Deere checking my fields, you know...and all of a sudden I hear this sound. It was a kinda weird sound, you know?" "It was kinda like whoosh-thud...tumble, tumble, tumble," he said. "So I got up and looked toward the sound." ..."something was knocking down my corn"... "This thing, whatever it was, knocked down maybe thirty or forty feet of head-high corn stalks, in a straight line," he continued. "I saw the last ones go down." He clapped one flattened hand downward onto the other. "Then all was quiet."

..."I stand up straight and look around," he said, "my wrench hand at the ready. But there's no sign of man nor beast." ... So I stoop down and start pawing through the grass and then...just when I'm about to give up, the back of my hand hits something big and solid in the grass." ..."I decided to give the thing a kick with my boot." "And voila,... there it was." "It was a meteor!"

Rodney Holton was a local farmer known in the city of Red Wing, Minnesota for his flim-flammery, so when he recited his story to Attorney James Becker, Beck had his doubts as to how much was true and how much wasn't. And to assure his belief he and his wife Beth decided to pay a visit to Rodney's farm where he displayed his 'meteor' and charged $20.00 per person to view. Yep, Rodney was up to his old tricks again. The taped off area that contained burned grass and what appeared to be a bowling ball dug into the ground didn't quite fit the story he had relayed to Beck. Yet there was something that just didn't ring quite right that had Beck believing there might be a bit more to Rodney's story. When the FBI turns up looking for the meteor, Beck's feelings proved true. What didn't quite fit was the finding of Hoof and Mouth Disease that were found in Rodney's cattle. This strain appeared to be found only in the South African tribal farming area, so how did it get to the US. And what is its connection with the meteor?

The answers to these questions plus, lead Beck and the FBI to suspect North Korea has a hand in at least one part of the mystery. Their beliefs are reinforced when the meteor turns up missing and is found to have been in the presence of a Korean man who was found dead with traces of a fluffy, white powder that is such a favorite of terrorists world-wide - Anthrax. After a search of the man's work place Beck and agent Costa discover half of the powder found had been mixed with another white substance. What was missing was the other half of undiluted powder that could kill thousands if placed in the right venue.

I've read everything John L. Betcher has written and every time I think he can't get any better. Well he does. The Critical Element is by far his best in the James Becker series. I can't wait to see what Beck will do next.
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