Written by Paul E Hardisty — Claymore Straker is in trouble. It’s October 1994 and there’s a price on his head. When we last saw him (in Hardisty’s debut The Abrupt Physics of Dying) he gave up an arm in Yemen in exchange for his partner Rania’s life, and now she’s disappeared. He’s been hiding out in Cornwall ever since he exposed the lengths multinational oil companies will go to for the sake of their profit. No-one can know where he is; he’s wanted by the CIA for acts of terrorism he didn’t commit, Russian oligarch Regina Medved is after him for the murder of her brother, a Romanian hitman wants to settle an old score, and his oldest friend may have just betrayed him. And now there are two men at his door, speaking Afrikaans, bearing weapons and a grudge.
Clay fights well for a man with one arm missing. His old soldier instincts are sharp, and it isn’t long before he’s fleeing through the rain. The arrival of the South Africans at his Cornish hideout proves that his cover’s been blown, but the only person who knew where he was is his oldest friend Crowbar. With no one to trust, Clay heads out in search for Rania – last he heard she was on Cyprus, exposing corrupt deals to open up protected beaches for tourist development. The tension between Greek and Turkish Cypriots is mellowing, being played out more in the courtroom than on the battlefield, but the island is still cut in two, and both sides have reason to want Clay and Rania gone.
Rania is working with one-time lesbian lover Hope, an American marine researcher in Greek Cyprus, showing what damage the developments on several beaches will cause to endangered Mediterranean sea turtles. Along the way she is exposing the shady deals – deals that could endanger the unity of the island. Her work has also earned her enemies on both sides of the buffer zone dividing the Greek half of the island from the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. Clay knows he must find her and protect her, even as everyone he knows is betraying him.
The Evolution of Fear moves from rainy Cornwall to a small boat on the English Channel, then briefly to Istanbul before arriving on Cyprus. Each location is wonderfully realised, with a light shone on both the beautiful and the ugly. Hardisty’s writing style feels as though it has matured since The Abrupt Physics of Dying; he is more aware of his strengths as an author, making his second novel tighter and tenser than his debut. The Evolution of Fear feels like James Bond at his best – a perfect distilling of contemporary fears, producing a final product which is pure action. While Bond fought Communists and nuclear annihilation, Straker’s enemies are fundamentalism and environmental destruction. But Straker is a much more palatable hero for our times; a damaged man, who will inevitably lose something more of himself before the novel is over.
In style and form The Evolution of Fear is much like The Abrupt Physics of Dying, even the dancing across languages is repeated, with occasionally frustrating effect – lines are written with a single word in Greek, then written again in English, or a whole conversation is suffixed by the phrase ‘he said, in Afrikaans’ leading to a lot of repetitive and unnatural dialogue. Despite these, and despite being set over 20 years ago, The Evolution of Fear feels fresher and more contemporary than most crime fiction I’ve read recently.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars