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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dead Men's Dust. Matt Hilton. Hodder (2009)

A gripping and very enjoyable macho thriller with an engaging cast and first rate plot mechanics. Joe Hunter, an ex-Special Forces operative, is assisting his ex-sister-in-law who is having a problem with a local gangster. Joe discovers that his half-brother is in trouble in the USA and heads over to help him. With the assistance of an old friend Rick, Joe starts to track his brother who has been publicly identified as a serial killer called the Harvestman. As Joe tracks his brother the plot twists and turns in a very nice fashion and the cunningly staged reveals  move the story in happily unexpected directions. The action is both furious and well thought out, the climax is satisfyingly bone crunching and very well played.
Joe Hunter is a really engaging character, violence is his stock-in-trade and he is very good at it, at the same time his is aware its limits and works to use it as tool rather than being consumed by it. The competent thoughtfulness he brings to the business of hunting his brother through a series of violent encounters gives the action a sharp edge. The action is always loaded with consequences, some foreseen most not and Joe is attractively quick on his mental and physical feet.  The tension about the possibility that his brother is a serial killer and what action he will take when they meet is threaded with care through the story.
Tubal Cain is a very dedicated killer and the way that Matt Hilton ties him into the story is clever and plausible and conflict between two highly competent and dedicated hunters is gripping. Matt Hilton manages to resolve one of the most serious problems facing any writer wanting to use a serial killer in a story. How to make them deranged enough to want to kill others, be smart enough to be hard to catch, creative enough to provide colour to the book and not be a supervillian at the same time. Matt Hilton manages this by deftly using a very black and dry humour to describe Tubal Cain's plans and exploits. This gives him just the space he needs to bring the character to vivid and bloody life. This really pays of as the story reaches it climax and in less skillful hands the climax could have become overburdened with Gothic flourishes, instead they are recognizably true physical expression of the mental landscape of Tubal Cain.
The plot mechanics are superb, the story is carefully set up to appear to be heading in a fairly well trodden route before sliding away in an unexpected direction and then slipping away like an eel when it should. This care in plotting gives the cast a strong context to act in and they make the most of it, it draws cleverly on the back story of the cast without drowning them.Thoroughly gritty without ever being needlessly grim, this is a great fun read.

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