Review: Dead Men's Harvest by Matt Hilton

dead-mens-harvest4 of 5 stars

Joe Hunter 6

My version:
Fiction Thriller, Crime
Hodder & Stoughton

Joe Hunter vs Prisoner 1854

When Rink is ambushed by a team of highly skilled killers, Joe is pretty sure his friend is being used as bait. And the intended prey is Hunter himself.

Forced to operate without official sanction, Joe penetrates the kidnappers’ lair and finds his ultimate quarry is back from beyond the grave – and with a bone to pick…

I don’t do serial killers. Those with little ‘quirks’ especially. Those who ‘taunt’ the police, or collect things or who murder people and set them up in situations to follow a pattern. No. No. And just no. It doesn’t happen. Outside Hollywood scriptwriters and novelists fevered minds. I don’t do psychopathic killers either. They’re psychopathic alright, but still ok enough to know it’s wrong. They run away afterwards and try to avoid capture or arrest, don’t they? That’s all the evidence you need. 100 years of psychiatry dismissed just there.

However, in the case of Matt Hilton’s The Harvestman, I’ll make one of my (rare) exceptions. The second time around, anyway. You may remember The Harvestman from his previous outing in the first Joe Hunter book, Dead Men’s Dust. There, he was very scary, mainly in the descriptions of his ’normality.’ You know, how they show someone you know is a real nutcase killer, going about normal, daily activities. You know he’s not normal and the more normal he acts, the more tense you are, waiting for him to crack and do something appalling. In Dead Men’s Dust, that was ratcheted up to 11, and was incredibly effective. But I didn’t take to him and was glad when he was hung drawn and quartered, blown up and pieces of his body scattered to the four winds. Or maybe not. Because, he’s back. He’s older, he’s perhaps wiser, but he’s still obsessed with dismembering Joe Hunter’s brother, Joe Hunter, and just about anyone else he comes into contact with. Here, I’m enjoying the times when TH (as I call him) comes in. The second half, the latter third, are truly exceptional and the tension and thrills are wound up tighter and tighter to one hell of an effective finale.

(You can miss this para out, if you want to).

Joe Hunter, well, he’s still sometimes a bit of a problem. He means well, and he sure is useful with most forms of combat, armed or unarmed. And here, he takes less and less shit as the book progresses. Perhaps the least amount of shit he’s ever taken. Certainly, throwing people out of moving helicopters isn’t going to go down well with good ol’ St Peter when Hunter gets up there. Back to the ‘however’ though. First. He never seems to think anyone associated with anyone bad who deserves killing, is in anyway guilty by association. They are sweet innocent lambs, clearly led with no free will of their own, into being associated with the villains. Family and friends of Mafia racketeers, for instance. They are totally, Daz-white innocents on their way to Sunday School when Joe H turns up. Mrs Mafia boss, surely only pauses helping little old ladies over the road, to say “Hard day at the office, dear?” to Joe Mafiabossoso. And speaking of little old ladies, Joe Hunter sounds, at least in the first half here, like a SIG-Sauer, Ka-Bar-carrying little old lady. “They’re coming right at us Hunter!” “Hold on, Rink! What if I hit someone else? What if I accidentally hit someone, an innocent, heaven forbid, an innocent woman?! What does that make me, Rink?! How will I live with myse…” BOOM! Blam! Blam! Blam! Game over. If the perp hasn’t shot him, then Rink or another of the Special Forces brethren, or the Harvesman’s friends, will have. While you’re reading it, screaming “Get ON with it!” Surely, that sort of thing gets weeded out of candidates on the first morning at Hereford? He, Hunter, improves as the book goes on, partly though, at the expense of Rink and other friends, who Hunter just HAS to ‘protect.’ “Rink (who is in exactly the same, no way out, situation as Hunter) was relying on me, and so was my brother, John.” Leaving aside the unnecessary naming of his brother, John, he constantly assumes that they are where they are BECAUSE of him, ONLY he can get them out of it, they need protecting and ONLY he can protect them. That’s Rink, his public school-educated, professional librarian by trade, from a little cottage by a stream in rural Gloucestershire, who is a little backward, always trusts anyone and everyone and has to be led by the hand when he’s outside the care home…no it isn’t! It’s ex-Special Forces, owner of a Detective Agency, enormous bloke Rink. You know, the one who said “It’s ok Hunter, I know what I’m getting into, I’ll help you” Rink.

(Welcome back!)

Otherwise, just dandy. It moves along at a good clip, and is head and shoulders above many other Thriller books you’re likely to come across. Joe Hunter just needs to be a bit more ruthless and effective, to really live up to the Jack Reacher comparisons. Maybe a couple of hundred “Hunter said nothing”’s inserted here and there? It is tightly plotted and ultimately compulsive reading – it has to be, to get me to be thrilled reading about death-defying serial killers.

You can buy Dead Men’s Harvest from The Book Depository

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

Blood and AshesTripwire Lee Child





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