Review: A Promise to Kill by Erik Storey

A Promise to Kill.jpgErik Storey’s Nothing Short of Dying was a high-octane series launch, its hard-wired plot and adrenaline-fuelled scenes making it a must-read for fans of thriller-lit. Impossibly, his second Clyde Barr novel is even leaner and meaner, which evokes the spirit of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, but retains its own ingenuity.

Barr is a nomad like Reacher — a hard-as-nails butt-kicker with an irrepressible moral code — but unlike the army-trained protagonist of Child’s novels, Storey’s hero is a self-trained, all of his skills learned on third-world battlefields, or during a short stint in a Mexican prison. He’s rawer than Reacher, cruder, which mightn’t seem an important distinction to readers less indoctrinated in the genre, but makes a difference for those of us who read hundreds of these books a year.

When A Promise to Kill opens, Barr is rushing a newfound friend, Bud Nicholas — a farmer in the Ute Indian reservation in Utah — to hospital with a suspected heart attack. There he meets Bud’s daughter and her son, the trio forming an instant bond, which results in Barr offering his services at the farm until Bud is back on his feet. But contentedness never lasts long in these books, and soon a violent biker gang called the Reapers set up camp ten miles north of town and start making their presence known. Never one to back down, regardless of the odds, Barr quickly makes his presence known to the Reapers, and as the bikers’ interactions with the townspeople become increasingly violent, Barr uncovers their true reasons for basing themselves in the region.

The pace doesn’t let up, events occurring over a few days, and while characterisations are thin, tensions are always high. Storey serves up a story that rarely pauses for breath, and while it might’ve been nice to have a few scenes fleshed out, and the book’s antagonist’s rationality better explained, A Promise to Kill is all about sheer intensity. Storey has mastered the art of making pages turn themselves, and whatever the plot lacks in nuance, it makes up for with its relentless and visceral action.

ISBN: 9781471146909
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publish Date: 10-Aug-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey

Nothing Short of DyingFor the pure pleasure of uncomplicated, nonstop action, no thriller this year has come close to matching Erik Storey’s Nothing Short of Dying, the first in what promises to be an adrenaline-fuelled series starring Clyde Barr.

Barr is the latest in a long line of loner heroes with violent pasts that belie their good intentions. Fresh from a stint in a Juárez prison, Barr is determined to make a fresh start, free from the chaos that has punctuated his life. But a frantic phone call from his youngest sister, Jen, halts any plans to ride off into the sunset. Jen needs his help, and as Barr himself asserts – which is a touch on the nose – “nothing short of dying” will stop him from coming to her aid. Problem is, Barr has no idea who has her or where she is. And he embarks on a spree of beat-downs and shootings that put Jack Reacher’s dust-ups to shame. Clyde Barr is a one-man army, as competent with his fists as he is with a rifle or bow. The introduction of Allie – inadvertently drawn into Barr’s violent journey – adds some much-needed emotional depth, and a touch of requisite romance.

Storey brings the rugged outdoor terrain to life, and Barr’s adeptness to life in the wild distinguishes him from the urban-minded heroes that populate most novels in the genre. When we meet Barr, he’s camping in the wilderness, having hunted for his dinner the night before; and he’s a technophobe, adverse to telecommunications and society’s reliance on electronic devices. Need someone to track footprints? Clyde’s your man. Want him to access your phone’s GPS? Look elsewhere.

Nothing Short of Dying takes off at breakneck speed and doesn’t let up. There’s not much nuance, and though the plot moves at the speed of a bullet, it moves at the same trajectory from start to finish, and offers few genuine surprises or curve balls. But for readers seeking rock ’em sock ’em action, Erik Storey’s debut will surely satisfy. If the author is able to add a touch more stylistic flair in Barr’s second outing, we could be witnessing the launch of thriller fiction’s next big brand.

ISBN: 9781471146848
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Sep-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom