416 pages/11 hrs 11mins
Published July 11, 23
This is the first book in a new action series set in the USA, by the author of the fantastic Washington Poe crime thriller series. The hero Ben Koenig, a former special forces operative forced to undertake a dangerous mission to find an old friend’s missing daughter. We listened to the audiobook over a couple of car journeys, and enjoyed it for the fast paced over the top heroics of the main character, with some reservations. It’s basically a Jack Reacher story, super-sized – more action, more brutal violence, more weapons, more emotionless analysis and explanation of Koenig’s every move: most of the chapters are told from his first person perspective (past tense, thankfully) with a few third person scenes centred on the main antagonist.
I can’t help thinking that Craven might’ve been better off publishing this under a different name, as most of the people who didn’t enjoy this were expecting something more like his previous UK based crime books. You can’t blame the him for wanting to reach a bigger audience, hence the shift to an American protagonist and setting, and picking a shift in genre to one that sells squillions, but making this so similar to Mr Child’s books seems a bit cynical (it’s clearly not an accident – Reacher is even mentioned at one point.) The plot is also like a more complicated version of them – drifter creates mayhem in a small town hiding a big secret, and almost single-handedly takes out an army of vicious killers. (That’s not a spoiler is it?) Koenig himself is also less appealing as a hero – his unusual brain injury, that prevents him feeling any fear, makes him a cold-blooded killer. Yes he has some sort of moral code, and he’s loyal to his friends, all two of them, but he shrugs off the death of innocents in a way that makes him hard to like. At least he doesn’t sleep with a woman young enough to be his daughter, and there’s some humour, albeit dark.
The audiobook narration was pretty good, I didn’t love the accent and I couldn’t speed it up beyond 1.1 as it became too hard to follow what he way saying, but once I got used to it it mostly fit the character – although the narrator sounded a lot older than the character is supposed to be. Overall, if you love the Reacher and Orphan X books, and are not fazed by graphic violence including references to fairly extreme torture and a very high body count – it was a bit too much for me – then you should enjoy this. I still prefer the Poe & Tilly books so hope this doesn’t signal the end of them, but I will continue this series as Craven is such a good storyteller.