Author: Mike Thompson

Title: "REFUND"

Publisher: CreateSpace, 2017; 274 pp. 

Bismarck author Mike Thompson’s latest novel "REFUND" is a real page turner as in 63 short chapters he swiftly moves the action along. The setting is in western North Dakota, and the plot revolves around the greed of seven pathetic losers.

These men devise a scheme to take over the mineral interests of Steven Donovan, a widowed Vietnam veteran. Their plan involves hiring a hit man to kill Donovan. This endeavor will cost them $100,000, so they each kick in $14,285, a small price for the riches they expect when the discovery of platinum is revealed. The guy who came up with this idea kicked in the extra $5 to make it an even $100,000.

The hit man, who goes by the name of the Fennec, decides not to carry out the contract for the hit on Donovan, so he starts the process of giving each of the seven a refund of their $14,285.

The first to get a refund is Roger Payne. The Fennec lures him to Payne’s office under the pretense he's a police office reporting a burglary. Using some of the persuasion a hit man could use, the Fennec encourages Payne to tell him the entire story of why they wanted Donovan killed. Payne reveals Randy Fisk made all the decisions for the seven.

The Fennec takes seven of Payne’s business envelopes and, placing $14,285 in cash in one envelope, he kills Payne leaving visible under his hand the envelope marked "REFUND."

Chief of Police Tom Katz investigates Payne’s murder, and subsequent murders, while the remaining members of the conspiracy start arguing among themselves as one by one they each start receiving their "REFUND." 

While there is plenty of action leading to seven dead conspirators, there is no good guy, no redeeming character, no one who you can feel good about coming out on top. I suppose you could feel some empathy for the Fennec, but he is a cold-blooded killer whose only redeeming virtue is that he does have some morbid sense of justice as he kills the men who hired him to kill Steven Donovan. It was a compelling read as I turned page after page to find out what happens, but it didn’t take me too many pages to begin to figure out the twist.

The author, Mike Thompson, is a Bismarck High School graduate and a Vietnam veteran who served as a field medic and medical research specialist. He continued his service in the North Dakota National Guard, U.S. Air Force and the Reserves, and he was the first Vietnam-era commander of Bismarck’s American Legion Loyd Spetz Post No. 1. He and his wife, Ruthie, live with their cats, Daisy and Molly, on the Laughing Horse Ranch, Land and Cattle Company in San Angelo, Texas.

Robert O. “Bob” Wefald retired at the end of 2010 after 40 years of work in the law. He was admitted to the practice of law in 1970, and except for one year as law clerk for the North Dakota Supreme Court and four years as attorney general, he was in private practice in Bismarck until being elected as a North Dakota State District Court Judge beginning in 1999. He served on active duty as a naval officer from 1964 to 1967 followed by 24 years in the Naval Reserve retiring in 1991.