Review: The Killing Season by Mason Cross

Killing Season LargeWhen Jack Bauer is busy, Jack Reacher is out of town, and Jason Bourne’s off trying to reclaim his lost memory, who’re you going to call? Well, there’s a new guy in town, who goes by the name Carter Blake. Enigmatic fellow. Hard-as-nails. Specialises in finding people who don’t want to be found. Best get him on the case soon, though. Blake’s doesn’t stay in one place too long…

The Killing Season is a brisk and efficient thriller. Mason Cross’s debut pits Blake and his temporary FBI allies against the infamous “Chicago Sniper,” Caleb Wardell, who escaped confinement during a seemingly unrelated jailbreak.  Mere hours after being inadvertently freed, Wardell takes up his old hobby: merrily blasting away innocent bystanders. How can Blake track a killer without a cause? And how will he respond when he learns he could’ve put a bullet in Wardell’s brain long before his killing sprees?

There’s a definite Jack Reacher vibe to Carter Blake, who plays the role of the mysterious stranger who arrives in town to solve a specific problem, bedding a beautiful woman long the way, and busting plenty of noses. Blake’s past is barely touched in The Killing Season; no doubt territory that’ll be explored, and sporadically dipped into, in future installments. This novel’s duty is to ensure that’s a readership awaiting that disclosure, and in that respect it succeeds. While there’s nothing innovative on display, The Killing Season is finely crafted with a confidence that rarely radiates from debuts. It’s soundly constructed, and moves quickly, with plenty of action, and a deep-lying conspiracy that propels the novel above the genre’s riff-raff.

The novel flounders when it clasps onto the tropes thriller readers are so accustomed to. Elaine Banner is a strong, capable female character; it’s a shame the author makes the decision to have her sleep with Blake, even though there’s never any suggestion it’s anything more than a one-night thing. I’m all for an underlying sexual tension between leads, but it always rings false after a mere 300 pages, no matter who your protagonist is. The action, too, while soundly executed, is derivative of scenarios we’ve all read before: the rushed escape from a burning building; a brutal punch-out; a chase through the woods. It’s all adrenaline-fuelled, and it’s undoubtedly page-turning; there’s just not enough to make it stand out from the pack.

The Killing Season is a solid thriller. Certainly enjoyable, and Carter Blake shows promise as a protagonist who could possibly helm a long-running series. But what’s that special something that’s going to separate Blake from Reacher, or Mason Cross from Lee Child? I hope we find out in The Samaritan.

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