Series: Joe Hunter 9
My version: Hardback
Fiction Action, Crime
Hodder & Stoughton
Ex-counterterrorist soldier Joe Hunter, has been called to Mexico to bring an end to a cartel that preys on the people they smuggle across the US border. Once the job’s done, however, Joe’s mission leader and mentor, CIA Black Ops director Walter Hayes Conrad, confesses that the bloody mission is not the real reason Joe has been summoned south of the border.
For years, Walter has kept the details of his private life – especially his family – secret from everyone, even his closest friends. But disaster has struck; his great-grandson Benjamin has been abducted, kidnapped by Walter’s sworn enemy, the leader of one of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. Walter will do whatever it takes to get the boy back. And he knows Hunter is the man for the job.
But there’s one complication – the drug boss just happens to be Benjamin’s father.
It pains me to say this, but…This one really annoyed me. Seriously, badly, however you want to describe the level of annoyance.
It was all going so well. Up to page 61 in fact, before this happened:
A quite clearly fake cop has waved them over, at night, with a huge flashlight, in the middle of the night. Not long after their suspicions about someone having been tipped off about them have been raised crossing the border.
As the incident starts, I guarantee the only ones not thinking ‘fake cop!’ are Joe Hunter and mates. Indeed, Hunter is at least second to realise all is not as it should be:
“I swung my SIG to cover him but was loath to shoot him. Despite firing on us, he was still a cop and out of bounds where my codes of practice were concerned.”
That is the kind of thing that absolutely does not need to be written. As said, the only one who now still thinks, after being fired on, while slowing to a stop, then again when stopped, that it’s a legit cop, is Hunter. Everyone reading this knew before it happened – and whilst it was happening – that it was a fake cop. If Hunter had (Reacher-esque) “said nothing,” we’d have thought him as clever as, if not more, us. But, after his pathetic “look, I’ve got codes” outburst, we’re not thinking “what a bad ass,” we’re thinking “you dumb fuck!” And that sort of feeling doesn’t go away. Not even if Rink punches his lights out, and bangs his head off an anvil several hundred times. Hunter, from now on in, is a lilly-livered, accountant. So to recap kids; all you need to do to kill Hunter, is wait until it’s dark, wear gear that maybe, possibly, if you screw your eyes nearly shut, might look to Stevie-bloody-Wonder like a police uniform – and you can drill Hunter full of lead at your leisure. Because he’ll give you the benefit of the doubt even after you’ve unloaded a Uzi up his backside. His last croaking words will be “he might be a cop and…my rules…”
That one completely unnecessary passage ruined an otherwise promisingly good start and unfortunately it’s back downhill from there on.
A page or so after, he’s still the only one not convinced that the cameras and shootings and pick-up trucks coming at them from all angles, are not related.
“Even though the cameras at the checkpoint had observed us, it didn’t follow that an ambush should have been laid for us up here.”
Yes it does! Screams every reader who ever read this. You don’t need to write that!
“This had to be random: robbers lying in wait for the unwary.”
Probably as well he’s only thinking this shit, not saying it out loud. If he did and Rink heard it, you gotta hope he’d punch Hunter into next week for such sissy shite.
Even allowing for the above, there’s too much stopping you in your reading tracks here. We’re rushing head-long into danger, when “Rink concentrated on driving. He had a gun in a shoulder rig, but to go for it now would compromise his control of the car.”
Stop! What?! ‘Compromise’? Really?!
“Thankfully it was a glancing blow and the shot didn’t embed itself in my cranium.”
What?! ‘Embed’?! ‘Cranium’?! Whilst American thriller writers might all be over-dependent on characters ‘punching in’ telephone numbers (even, one suspects on rotary-dial phones), none of them would ever use ‘cranium’ or ‘compromise’ in those taught, tense, situations! Even though the publishers have pitched this, and Matt Hilton has written this, to compete with, take a share of, the Lee Child market, you can’t imagine Lee Child writing that.
But then, as I pointed out last time, the problem is partly Matt Hilton’s decision to have Hunter as narrator. By being inside his head, we have to go through all that. It could well be that Reacher is that sort of wailing ninny inside, but we don’t hear that and consequently he is a hard-headed, decisive bad ass.
Another problem in from the start of the series, has been too much emphasis on making sure, every couple of chapters, we know Hunter is a conscientious killer. No women, no children, no ‘innocents.’ Which all women are (discuss). When threatening one of the bad guys, a former colleague, with shooting in the head – the we all know Hunter won’t do it, as does the baddy. There’s no doubt, no ‘oh shit, maybe Hunter will do it, he’s so unpredictable!‘ So the threats are meaningless. A waste of space, ink, time.
To further put the icing on the non-existent cake, On page 109, he says “But, recalling the crimes these men were responsible for, I’d no qualms about dropping a few of the sadistic butchers.”
That made me laugh. Because by now we know ‘no qualms’ from Hunter is utter nonsense. He has qualms on every page! He doesn’t know who is inside, it’s a ‘rushed plan,’ he doesn’t know who committed the atrocities he’s referring to. Man, or heaven forbid for his stomach ulcer, woman. So, if it’s two people, a woman and a man dressed as a cop – Hunter and his team are dead as disco. Because, as Rink is bleeding out after being chopped in half by bullets, Hunter will console him and himself by saying “but my conscience is clear, Rink; it was a woman and a bloke dressed as a cop, and I can’t shoot either.” “Fair enough Hunter, stop wittering, I just need to die here..”
Then, just four pages later, P113. “Neither of us was prepared to hurt a civilian.”
Yes, yes! We got that the other billion times you said it. Don’t need to say it again. What are you worried about?
Five pages after that, the bullshit about ‘no qualms’ about killing the men inside is proved bullshit. P118, as they’re making their escape: “I didn’t intend to kill the guard, only to show him he’d best get the fuck out of my way.”
So no qualms didn’t last long. Nine pages at my count.
But we still have to sit through Hunter’s total lack of self-awareness. He still thinks he’s a hard-headed killer. Other characters occasionally say things like “Fleetingly, she thought of Joe, and how she’d seen in him a man who did have the necessary cold edge to kill a man in combat.” I’m thinking “is she on about Hunter?” I’m flicking back a few pages to see if it’s someone else I’ve missed. But, we’re being told it, I will suggest, because Matt Hilton knows he’s weakened Hunter by all the “but what if…” stuff, and so has to add in that Hunter is total bad-ass. But then, has to add in that Hunter isn’t total bad-ass. But then he needs to add in something that says Hunter is total bad-ass…
A couple of books back, the series finally looked like it was where it should be. But now, I really don’t know. If he wants to be Lee Child, he needs to come out of Hunter’s head. If he wants to be his own man, he needs to have Hunter’s attitude more “Fuck it! Let’s do this!” The scenarios, the writing in between the Women’s Institute stuff, is there, and the background characters are good enough to elevate this over Lee Child, Hunter though, as he stands, isn’t.
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