Stephen Mertz was the main man behind the “Jim Case” pen name adorning the front of the Cody’s Army books in the 1980s. Since he didn’t have the exact rights to the men’s adventure stories featuring John Cody, he made a new character named (brace yourself) – Jack Cody! Who also had thrilling action adventures! What a coincidence! The late Chet Cunningham did something similar with “SEAL Team Twenty”, and it predates self-publishing by quite a bit when authors worked for multiple firms. (In fact, there were times when the throwaway series couldn’t even keep the main character’s name consistent!)
Cody’s Return, in spite of what the name implies, is not the first book in the series. It is, however, the first book in a self-declared trilogy that centers around a crazed arms dealer and his even more crazed girlfriend/cult leader.
The thing about the original Cody’s Army was that, with some exceptions, it was very much a middle of the road series that had all the weaknesses of its format. Which is to say that something like a classic men’s adventure novel is extremely shallow even by cheap thriller standards. And this is the case here as well. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it does make it hard to pick one over another.
What makes this worse is that the book is aiming for a huge plot that it’s trying to stuff into too few pages. I get it’s the intended beginning of a trilogy where the author has complete control, but even in that circumstance it still feels too poorly done. Which is a shame. The plot of nukes, crazies, and colorful characters is something that almost needed a meatier book to do right.
Mertz is a champion of the genre, but he’s done better.