Written by Tim Lebbon — Tim Lebbon is already established as a fantasy writer with over 30 books to his name, and The Hunt is his first crime thriller. So does this pursuit thriller provide a sprint finish, or is it more of a gruelling marathon?
Chris Sheen is an ordinary guy, married with two daughters. He has a passion for running and is imbued with a competitive spirit clearly, which is defined as the book opens with him in the middle of his customary morning run. On his return home, something is clearly amiss when he discovers his wife and daughters are missing, and evidence of a violent struggle. He is warned to do exactly as instructed, or there will be severe consequences for his loved ones.
Sheen finds himself involved with a mysterious organisation called The Trail, which needs him for a sinister purpose. He is to be the prey in a human trophy hunt in the wilds of Snowdonia with a simple outcome: if he escapes his pursuers, his family will be killed. There is the slim chance that he may circumvent this dilemma in the shape of Rose, a survivor of a previous hunt but who has suffered greatly at the hands of The Trail. Could Rose be his salvation, or will this damaged soul seal his family’s fate?
With an opening that could have emerged straight from the pen of Linwood Barclay, The Hunt is difficult to assess as it so closely draws on books that have gone before. There are obvious similarities to Richard Bachman‘s The Running Man, Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games and to the excellent Trophy by Steffen Jacobsen. With the tropes of these books so much in evidence it all feels incredibly familiar. Sheen is a bland character who thinks about the nature and act of running a lot. To paraphrase Haruki Murakami, we get a great deal of insight into what he talks about when he talks about running. In addition, the depictions of Sheen’s wooly wife, mewling younger child, and slightly feisty teenage daughter, are a little one-dimensional. It sounds harsh, but many readers will probably root for Sheen to outrun his pursuers to seal their fate.
On the other hand, Rose is a beautifully developed character and Lebbon carefully reveals the depth of despair and the near fatal consequences of her previous experiences. She is an utterly empathetic character, imbued with a steely determination. Without dwelling too heavily on her back story, she and her sensei Holt are easily the most interesting characters and what could have been a strictly average thriller is lifted greatly by their presence. Reading chapters featuring Sheen’s linear narrative of running and yet more running, although contributing to the breathless pace of the plot, will leave you impatient to get back to Rose wreaking her revenge on some very nasty characters indeed.
The Hunt offers a fairly balanced mix as a crime thriller. The pace of plotting and the well-realised location of the rugged and hostile terrain of Snowdonia add to the feel of a tension fuelled thriller. However, some of the slack characterisation and too much superfluous emphasis on the tao of running are a little annoying when pitted against the superior depiction of Rose, who really holds this book together. As a pacey thriller, it’s worth a read on the summer holiday.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars