I had a quick burst of crime/thriller reading. Entertainingly, the two books have a similar basic premise but are very different. So there’ll be a link here tomorrow to the other book’s review.
Ian Rankin, writing as Jack Harvey
Gordon Reeve, an ex-SAS man, runs survivalist courses on the remote Hebridean island where he lives with his wife and son. His brother, James, is a journalist in London. James turns up dead in San Diego, having apparently killed himself. Except when Gordon goes to collect the body, things don’t quite add up and he starts to suspect his brother has been killed to spike a story.
I’m not someone who reads SAS/survivalist thrillers. All those brick-sized paperbacks with flames and silhouetted soldiers on the cover are the bookish equivalent of steroid-abusing muscle Marys to me. What I do read, compulsively, is Ian Rankin. Blood Hunt has the usual Rankin strong narrative pull that means you keep turning the pages. It doesn’t have the music references of the Rebus books, because Reeve is very different to Rebus, but there are some similarities.
Knots and Crosses, the first Rebus novel, is about brothers/doubles as well. This probably comes from Rankin’s love of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jeckyll and Hyde. In Blood Hunt Reeve, as well as having a brother who drags him into a darker, nastier world, has anger management issues: a ‘pink mist’ descends and he lashes out. That’s a side-effect of a betrayal whilst in the SAS/Falklands by Jay, who Reeve thinks died on a mission. Except Jay lived and is working for the people who ordered James’ death. Jay is another double – a mirror of Reeve who took a different path.
The Reeves investigations reveal a global agri-industry conspiracy tying back to BSE. Rankin doesn’t shy from adding political material to his novels (there’s a Rebus that deals with political corruption and hospital building, for example). What’s difficult to gauge is not his anger over the BSE epidemic and denial of risk at the time, but the extent to which he believes the conspiracy theory Reeve uncovers. I just can’t be sure.
As always with Rankin, this is well plotted, character-driven narrative with some violence and a real sense of location. Reeve is a flawed protagonist who drags you in because the people he is up against are worse. Overcome the SAS thriller disguise, because this is really another great crime novel.