Written by Mason Cross — Carter Blake is a man for hire. He tracks down people who don’t want to be found and he’s very good at his job having been trained by a covert government department called Winterlong.
Blake is currently in California, engaged by a software company because a piece of software that is being developed and could marginalise Facebook – and is consequently worth a fortune – has been stolen by an employee. Scott Bryant is the alleged thief, and the company wants its technology back. The trouble is someone is hunting Blake, too. But who?
Five years ago Blake, unhappy with the behaviour of some of his Winterlong colleagues, was recruited by a US Senator, John Carlson, who was investigating Winterlong, a department so secet not even Carlson was supposed to know about them. Blake agreed to be a mole and fed Carlson information from the inside. The trouble was, someone on the inside found out. Blake escaped an attempt on his life and ran, changed his identity and started a new life, with a different identity. He and Winterlong entered an uneasy truce.
However, Winterlong has a new boss, Emma Faraday, and now they want Blake dead and Winterlong excels at finding people too. Faraday assembles a team of tough guys, all ex-armed forces, with a man called Murphy as her lieutenant who used to work with Blake in the past. But what’s their connection? Why is Murphy so keen to hunt Blake?
There are scores to be settled, personal ones…
The introduction to this review is necessarily short. Revealing too much now would fundamentally spoil the plot. This is a cleverly constructed, dual timeline narrative that flips between the Blake / Bryant pursuit and Winterlong’s search for Blake in the present, along with the flashback element five years ago regarding Blake’s covert work with Winterlong on behalf of Carlson. In effect there are two stories within – one involves the pursuit, the other is sees how Blake’s issues with Winterlong got him to where he is. There is plenty of opportunity for the author to get this wrong, but the two tales fit hand in glove together, one really enhancing the other. It’s very well done.
Carter Blake is an excellent character. He’s tough but can compromise, intelligent, resourceful without being ridiculous. In other words, believable. However, there is a significant element of the unknown about him. How did he reach this point? Who is he really. Well, this novel goes part way to explaining that. Along with the Carlson narrative there’s also descriptions of Blake’s personal life, again a nice touch that adds warmth and depth to the character. All the Blake narrative is in first person which lends itself well to the mystery and steady reveal.
The novel itself clips along. Although there are three strands to the story they don’t get confused. The chapters are short, the prose is punchy and fast moving making this a proper page turner which maintains a furious pace without draining the reader.
We’ve previously reviewed The Samaritan, effectively a crime novel which comprised Blake’s hunt for a serial killer who happened to be one of his Winterlong colleagues and a major reason for his resulting disaffection. The Time To Kill is instead an out and out thriller and is better for it. The Samaritan was a very good novel, however Cross’s latest output is a step on. Additionally it feels like Cross has more to develop here, that Blake has not quite hit his peak in terms of an all round story being told. There deserves to be plenty more Carter Blake novels in the future…
CFL Rating: 4 Stars