Hard Road

Hard-RoadWritten by JB Turner — Jon Reznick is the anti-hero of this conspiracy thriller. His wife was killed in 9/11 and his whole world is his daughter Lauren. He’s tried to keep her as separate as possible from his work both for her safety and to conceal what he does. Jon is a killer, first for the army as part of Delta Force, and then freelancing for the CIA – the kind of work where there has to be total deniability. He left the CIA three years ago to work for an agency even more in the shadows. So secretive, in fact, that Reznick only assumes he’s working for the American government. His only contact is a man named Maddox, just a voice at the end of a phone line. His conscience, such as it is, is clear because the targets he’s taken out so far have been bad guys – Jihadists and the like.

That all changes when he receives a call from Maddox to accept a ‘delivery’ in Washington. The target this time is something new and concerning – an American on American soil. Tom Powell has been labelled an imminent security risk, but no other information is forthcoming. However, Reznick’s faith in Maddox overcomes any concerns and he continues with the hit. As he’s about to finish the job when he notices an IDF dog tag around Powell’s neck. Interrogating Powell, Reznick discovers his real name is Frank Luntz , a government employee  working in germ warfare research, currently under the protection of the FBI. Reznick discovers the agent throttled next door and is ordered by Maddox to take Luntz to another hotel where he will be collected by another of Maddox’s team. The group who turn up are not what he expects and Reznick has to kill to effect their escape.

Now Reznick is on the run with Luntz as his prisoner. He doesn’t know if he can trust Maddox but has no-one else to turn to. Then Reznick gets a call. His daughter and mother-in-law have been kidnapped. The latter is killed as Reznick listens on the phone as punishment for not killing Luntz. If he doesn’t deliver Luntz to Miami within 24 hours his daughter will be next.

If Reznick is the novel’s anti-hero, a cold-bloodied killer whose morality stretches no further than his daughter’s safety and a vague notion of America good, the rest of the world bad, then Martha Meyerstein is more easy to empathise with. An Assistant Director of the FBI, she was overseeing the Luntz case, and it’s her task to catch Reznick. Since he dropped off  the grid the FBI believe he’s acting freelance for the other side. As Reznick drives south, trying to get a handle on what’s going on, Meyerstein is trying to hunt him down.

As the chase continues, events lead to Reznick and Meyerstein realising that they face a common enemy. The lab at which Luntz worked is missing vials of deadly bacteria and another lab worker, Lt Colonel Scott Caan, has disappeared. By-the-book Meyerstein and rogue-agent Reznick will have to find a way to work together to save Lauren and prevent a terrible terrorist attack.

Turner has written a book which combines the paranoid conspiracy of Three Days of the Condor with the relentless action of the Reacher thrillers. The shadowy and morally questionable world of covert operations is well explored and the research into the workings of the law enforcement agencies must have been exhaustive. It is a brave decision of the author to paint Reznick how such killers must really be – callous and unflinching but it does make him rather hard to like. Reading it, you might end up caring less for his personal dilemma than you expect, and this may affect enjoyment of the book a little. Nevertheless, the constant action and drama make for an exciting read. And that is what thrillers are for.

Hard Road is out on 1 August.

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CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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