I’m not above popcorn style spy/thriller novels. I understand that sometimes, you just need a James Bond-type to fly around the world, being invincible and solving puzzles that apparently no one else is capable of solving. At least, that’s how Matt Christopher, ex-FBI agent and current international man of mystery (no offense, Austin Powers) strikes me.
When the book opens, we’re at a base camp at Mt Everest, in a tent where a man and woman have just finished having sex. Matt makes his entrance, suffering from altitude sickness and jet lag. The man from the first chapter has an ice axe embedded in his skull and Matt sort of barges into the investigation, directing local law enforcement to do this or that. Then, he bids them farewell, and he’s jetting off (first class, of course) to London.
OK, fine. We’re to believe that Matt is now an independent contractor for the US government, because he can tell when people are lying or read a crime scene or a witness or anything else (he’s described at one point as a tracker, which was a little confusing and weird). So he flies around the world, setting up meets and reviewing evidence and interviewing people – you know, the things that local law enforcement could probably do without him.
In London, he meets up with a friend who works for British intelligence, and they’re hunting for a guy who slashes womens’ throats – and all the victims have been members of Parliament. Naturally, Matt swoops in and figures out whodunnit. Then: he’s off again.
We get more descriptions of how he’s flying from one place to another. There was a lot of that in this book. I have to say that I don’t care at all how characters get from point A to point B unless there’s something significant about it. Is thee a bomb on the plane? Is the bus going to be hijacked? Does the car have a tracking device on it?
Stick Matt on a plane, send him somewhere, point him to a case. He figures out the bad guy, jets off. Repeat this for what seems to be a dozen times in this book. The bad guys are the type who are immediately identifiable to the reader and who like to confess. Except the beautiful, sexy Russian spy who kills someone close to Matt. She’s all over the place, a superspy, just like him, skating just out of reach.
Until the end – the final scene in the book, which I’m going to spoil for you.
The Russian is found in a Thai tourist resort – just like Matt forecast with his spidey sense. She’s meeting Matt’s best friend (there’s stuff earlier in the book where this guy is at the house where the woman Matt is close to is murdered; they are lifetime pals), and that friend meets her on the beach in the dunes to set her up for Matt, who comes up behind her and shoots her in the head. The two of them drag her into the dunes, and then? They’re off to the bar, which is not terribly far away, to have a cold one and toast their friend. That just seems a little psychopathic to me.
There are a number of things that this book needs or needs to eject. It really and desperately needs an editor. There’s no need to pile all of these escapades into the same book instead of just picking one or even three and fleshing those out. The good guy doesn’t have to take down all the bad guys in a single book.
All the unnecessary travel stuff can also go. Most of them don’t matter to the story and do nothing but serve as filler.
Within the first five pages, Matt says he had spent some time in a “hyperbolic chamber” to charge up his red blood cells because apparently flying to Kathmandu from Qatar to sale Everest was a spur of the moment thing. While this book may be a “hyperbolic chamber”, it is a hyperbaric chamber that is used for the medical purpose Matt describes.
When in London, Matt decides to help his pal Charlie (of British intelligence) and it is described thusly: “It took a split second for Matt to agree to help, and Charlie knew that meant it would be in any way he could. That was his friend’s Motus Operandi, his “M.O.””
Two things: people know what an MO is, and they don’t need the Latin. Also, if you are going to use the Latin, it is “modus operandi” and it doesn’t need to be capitalized.
I wasn’t looking terribly closely at things after the first dozen chapters. I skimmed through much of the rest, seeing the pattern (Matt flies somewhere -> crime -> superdude solves it -> goodbye -> repeat), and skipping forward. At no point – even when Matt’s been hit in the head and hauled off – is there ever a question that he will get out of the situation, and no indication that he’s even perturbed or worried about it. There’s no real tension here.
If you need something fast, don’t mind what could be described as serials pushed together into a single book, and want an indestructible good guy (who does bad things, like kill people), take it for a ride.
Two out of five stars.
Thanks to JK Kelly and NetGalley for the review copy