PAPER TARGETS By Steve S. Saroff published by @SteveSaroff #PaperTargets #Book Review

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“Enzi is … a runaway and a dyslexic who started with nothing. But he discovers a talent for — and a fascination with — math and winds up a successful computer coder with his own company. But he has come under the sway of Tommy Tsai, a very smooth and very, very bad guy, and gets drawn into cybercrime. At the same time, he posts bail for, and falls half in love with, a young woman named Kaori, an unbalanced Japanese artist prone to not just violent mood swings, but violence itself.

“Halfway through the novel, the Kaori story takes a back seat to Enzi’s desperate fight to break Tsai’s hold over him. It’s unwise to try to walk away from Tommy Tsai, who has murderous contacts, and true to thriller conventions, the plot involves a race against time.


This whole story is told from the perpective of the main character Enzi. Who was dealt a pretty bad hand when he was young, his mother died when he was 12 and his father turned to alcohol. His mother used to read to him and his father would teach him mechanics. But at 14 his father had too many DUI’s and lost custody of Enzi. But Enzi had a big secret he was dyslexic the letters of the words would jumble up on the page. But he continued trying. Enzi ran away and that’s where his life really starts.

Enzi wasn’t shy of work he would do any type of job as long as he got paid. He was fascinated by numbers, by looking at patterns. Through this he learnt how to do coding for computers, but it’s in the murky side of cybercrime that he finds himself. which is not really a side you really want to find yourself.

I really enjoyed reading this book, the style of writing is interesting, the characters are believable, relatable. I really felt for Enzi because he wasn’t a bad person, he had gone adrift but was trying to put things right. Meeting Kaori who is a troubled artist from Tokyo, seems to land him in more trouble than he initially had. But he cares for her, she is a very strange female and not good for Enzi but he tries to help her until he realises something she has done.

As the story moves on you become more and more drawn in, for me I just wanted Enzi to get a break. The pace gradually builds up as you turn the pages, and you just want things to go right. Enzi tells the story as it is, he doesn’t waste words, he doesn’t really have any real friends. You find yourself wondering how he is going to escape the next dilemma that is thrown at him. Violence seems to follow him, but Enzi is not a violent person himself, he just somehow seems to attract it.

Kaori is a strong character, I’m not sure what Enzi gets from her as she doesn’t always treat him well, but she gets whatever she wants from Enzi, like she has this spell on him, she pushes him away and the reels him in again. There are so many questions you could ask about her, she is certainly unstable. Her paintings come alive as the author describes them especially the later ones, as they the truth in a way she can’t seem to speak of.

I found this to be a very creative novel, with several complex characters, the story keeps you engaged throughout I read this in one sitting as I needed to know what was going to happen. The descriptions of the places that Enzi took us read as if we were there, you could smell the smells, feel the chilly air, or the warm blue skies above. This slips easily from a romantic thriller with several twists to a dark twisted thriller, definitely not a cozy mystery read.

This is an author to watch out for, as a debut novel this is well written, I look forward to seeing what comes next. I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy of this to review all words are my own and not in anyway influenced.


Steve Saroff is the host of the podcast Montana Voice, and the author of over 30 traditionally published short stories, first printed in Redbook and other national magazines. His available books include Paper Targets; The Long Line of Elk; and, the forthcoming Mixed Drinks. He was a runaway who became a ‘coder’ and then started several software companies. Two of his start-ups were purchased by public corporations. He was the founder of FreeMail Inc, the first commercially successful web-based email system. FreeMail was acquired just before the criminal fraud and combined collapse of WorldCom and Enron (still the world’s largest criminal frauds). His novel Paper Targets digs into the buried mysteries of that corrupt time.


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