Review: Blue Moon by Lee Child

9781787630277In his 24th adventure, nomadic vigilante Jack Reacher cuts a wide swath through an unnamed city’s rival gangs in his quest to help an elderly couple under threat from loan sharks.

The first half is genius; vintage Reacher, the physical embodiment of a spanner in the works, an agent of chaos for the Albanian and Ukrainian crime bosses, who misconstrue his actions for their rivals. The pacing is sharp, the transitions between characters smooth, and the violence hits hard and fast; like Reacher. But when the narrative turns, and Reacher declares war on the city’s organised crime, the novel becomes too reliant on gunplay, which is less high-octane (as I imagine it was intended), and more absolutely bonkers. The body count in Blue Moon is stratospheric; ridiculously so. At one point, bodies are literally piled in a doorway as rank and file gang members attempt to swarm Reacher. Maybe I could get past this , the sheer exuberance of Reacher’s kill count, if the shoot-em-up set pieces were a little more imaginative and extravagant; but they’re just so banal, in terms of setting and execution. Nobody writes choreographed fight scenes like Lee Child; but something is lost when he translates his specific style to shootouts.

Reacher’s mortality has floated to the surface in recent books, but in Blue Moon he’s in God Mode; a one-man killing machine, doing bad things to bad people in the worst possible way. At one point he deadpans, “Normally I kill them, kill their families, and piss on their ancestors’ graves.” Oh, Jack; don’t become a caricature of yourself. The book speeds along at an agreeable clip, but I’ve always thought Reacher works best in Sherlock Holmes mode rather than John McClane action hero. Middling for this brilliant series; but an average Reacher is better than most thrillers on the shelves.

ISBN: 9781787630277
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 384
Imprint: Bantam Press
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 29-Oct-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

9781529335392.jpgFinally, a legal thriller with something to say, infused with more than just rudimentary courtroom drama and token plot twists, that positively glows with ambition and scope as it tackles weighty themes of parenthood, justice, guilt,  immigration, and the precariousness of truth. Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is electrifying; a much-needed jolt to a stagnant genre; as literate and thoughtful as it is fast-moving and relentless.

Young and Pak Yoo live in Miracle Creek, a small town in Virginia, with their teenage daughter, Mary. After immigrating to Virginia from Seoul, they start a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) business that operates in the barn behind their home. Treatment involves sitting in a chamber — referred to as the “submarine” — and breathing pure, pressurised oxygen. The theory is, because damaged cells need oxygen to heal, extra oxygen can result in faster healing of a variety of conditions, including cerebral palsy, male infertility and autism. 

Miracle Creek opens with Young Yoo narrating her version of events on the night of the fatal explosion at the submarine, that left two people dead, her husband in a wheelchair, Mary permanently scarred, and others seriously injured. It then cuts to one year later, and the beginning of the murder trial of Elizabeth Ward, who has been accused of starting the fire that lead to the explosion in order to kill her eight-year-old son Henry, who was undergoing HBOT for his autism. The narrative jumps between various characters, and flits back and forth between the night of the explosion and the present, exposing the true events of that night, and the culpability of everyone involved in the tragedy, directly and indirectly.

Bold and devastating, Miracle Creek is a must-read revitalisation of the legal thriller itself.

ISBN: 9781529335392
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 368
Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 23-Jul-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: In the Clearing by J.P. Pomare

9781869713393If J.P. Pomare’s Call Me Evie was a slow-burner of a psychological thriller, thick with a constant undercurrent of menace, his follow-up, In the Clearing, is a pared-down firecracker, the danger clear and present, even if its exact shape remains opaque until its climax.

Chapters alternate between Amy and Freya, dual storylines building in intensity as the page count deepens. Amy is an adolescent fully indoctrinated in the ways of the Blackmarsh; a cult whose home is in remote bushland known as ‘the Clearing.’ She knows what’s expected of her, how to placate her elders, and make sure life in the community remains harmonious. Until a newcomer destabilises her beliefs, and Amy begins to wonder what life is like on the outside. Freya is a mother, who faces a daily struggle to seem normal; your everyday mother and neighbour, nobody worthy of a second glance. But it’s clear she’s struggling with traumas from her past, which threaten to completely undo her carefully constructed life; particularly when a young girl goes missing, and someone from her past arrives in town, tearing open old wounds.

Pomare’s prose purrs so smoothly, you’ll read In the Clearing in one sitting, barely comprehending you’ve been turning its pages. It stays true to the genre’s conventions, and if you’re like me, you may pick some of its bombshells: but each one lands so plausibly, and at such speed, with such gravitas, it’s impossible not to be swept away.

ISBN: 9781869713393
Format: Paperback
Available: 31st December 2019

Review: Lost You by Haylen Beck

9781911215608Once again writing under the pseudonym Haylen Beck, Stuart Neville has produced a top-notch, twist-filled psychological thriller about a woman who’ll do anything for her child.

Lost You opens in a holiday resort in Naples, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. In an anxiety-inducing scene, three-year-old Ethan squirms in a woman’s arms as she climbs to the hotel’s roof. Police and hotel security surround the area; she can hear cries of alarm from guests below. One foot in front of the other she continues to move across the rooftop, towards its edge, Ethan still struggling, their fates seemingly entwined. Which they are, and have been for a long time, as readers learn when the narrative spirals backwards, revealing Ethan’s true parentage, and the desperate, ruthless actions a mother is capable of when her child is at risk.

With shades of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Michael Robotham’s The Secrets She Keeps, the less you know about Lost You the better. It delivers twist after twist, and although connoisseurs of the genre might pick some, I’m positive even the most prolific psychological thriller reader won’t anticipate every swerve in this tale. Beck’s latest is a chilling, gripping thriller you’ll put your life on hold for to finish. A consummate tale of suspense.

ISBN: 9781911215608
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 320
Imprint: Harvill Secker
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 27-Jun-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: White Hot Silence by Henry Porter

9781787470811

In last year’s Firefly, Henry Porter introduced Luc Samson, a former MI6 agent turned private eye and missing persons expert. Booted from SIS because of his gambling habit, Samson was pulled back into the fold to locate a thirteen-year-old refugee, codenamed Firefly, who possessed vital intelligence relating to an ISIS terror cell, and had made his way from Syria to Greece, then the mountains of Macedonia.

White Hot Silence takes place three years later, with Samson once again plucked from everyday life as a restaurateur to locate his former lover, Anastasia Hisami, who has been kidnapped in Italy while doing charity work with her husband’s foundation. More troubling? There hasn’t been a ransom demand. Anastasia’s kidnap coincides with her philanthropist husband, Denis Hisami, dealing with a crisis involving one of his investments — he suspects money laundering — and the arrival of Immigration and Customs Enforcement demanding his passport. Hisami refuses to believe it’s a coincidence.

White Hot Silence is a cinematic, suspenseful, professional-grade spy thriller with a dash of romance, featuring characters from the author’s abundant backlist. Porter proves once again that he can rework familiar genre material and bring it to new life. Fans of Mick Herron, Charles Cumming and Daniel Silva looking for their next fix of espionage action should look no further.

ISBN: 9781787470811
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 448
Imprint: Quercus Publishing
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Publish Date: 25-Jun-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

 

Review: Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

9781785152191.jpgIn a year of brilliant thrillers — think McKinty’s The Chain or Crouch’s Recursion — readers don’t need to settle for anything but the absolute best when it comes to turbocharged literary entertainment. Which is unfortunate for Thomas Harris, and the first book he’s published in thirteen years, because it is devastatingly archaic by comparison. It’s not even a fun throwback to a bygone era; Cari Mora is completely lacking in thrills, chills and even the shadow of a memorable character; and despite its lean page count, it is a slog to get through. The Silence of the Lambs this ain’t.

The plot involves a booby-trapped stash of Pablo Escobar’s gold, hidden in the basement of a luxurious mansion on Miami Beach, and a whole bunch of very bad dudes out to claim the treasure for themselves. Which actually doesn’t sound so bad I bet Donald Westlake, writing under his Richard Stark pen name, could’ve done something amazing with that set up but its unfolding chafingly uninventive and peopled with a two-dimensional, ridiculously villainous cast (there’s the guy who walks in for one scene to eat a human kidney — just ’cause; and the hairless albino whose favourite method of torture is a liquid cremation machine.

There’s the titular heroine, Cari Mora, a gorgeous former-FARC guerrilla, who works in the mansion as a housekeeper, whose backstory is sketched haphazardly, but at least provides the story with a glimmer of heart and humanity. But she’s not enough to sustain interest. The narrative lurches from one point of view to the next at one point we even get to witness the inner thoughts of a crocodile but it’s done without any panache. Uninspired and unsatisfying; for Harris completists only, and only if you must.

ISBN: 9781785152191
Format: Paperback / softback (234mm x 153mm x 24mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: William Heinemann Ltd
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 16-May-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

 

Review: Mission Critical by Mark Greaney

9780751569988A crisp, unpretentious action thriller packed with extravagant shootouts, in which the bad guys are the very worst, but the good guys are always that little bit better. In the world of action lit, Mark Greaney’s ‘Gray Man’ is up there Mitch Rapp, Jason Bourne and Orphan X.

Mission Critical, the eighth book in the series, sees Court Gentry — aka “Violator,” aka “the Gray Man” — involved in a CIA-sanctioned mission to stop a diabolical plot conceived by a pesky Russian sleeper agent, and a North Korean scientist, involving weaponised pneumonic plague and a meeting of the West’s key intelligence personnel. Aided by Zoya Zakharova and Zack Hightower, Gentry finds opposition in the form of not only weapon-wielding henchmen, but CIA and British Intelligence moles, too.

No points for subtlety, but Greaney knows precisely what his audience wants, and is more than happy to deliver. He is a writer of cinematic talent, whose pedal-to-metal style of storytelling will leave you breathless. It is the literary equivalent of sitting down to watch the latest Mission Impossible blockbuster.

ISBN: 9780751569988
Format: Paperback / softback (234mm x 152mm x 42mm)
Pages: 528
Imprint: Sphere
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 19-Feb-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom