The running man conspiracy continues! No, not really. I am not going to discuss the cover artwork for Matt Hilton’s Dead Men’s Dust. The running man has already had a good run (sorry about that) in the blogosphere. I thought it was time to actually delve inside, and I am pleased to report that Dead Men’s Dust is a cracking good thriller.
The opening is a ball-tearer, with the character Joe Hunter, from the outset proving that he has the skill set to help the small people of the world. Because that is what Joe Hunter does – he helps people. To put an espionage twist to it, Hunter is a bit like Robert McCall in the Equalizer, or even Michael Westen in Burn Notice. He’s a man who has been around the block – so to speak – and learnt a trick or two along the way. Now he has left that world behind and helps out people who aren’t able to protect themselves from the bullies of the world. But Hunter’s past is a bit vague. As he explains on page 59:
‘I hadn’t been a secret agent; it wasn’t for me to use guile and trickery to root out the bad guys. I was the weapon sent in when all the planning was done with and all that was left was the arse-kicking. Arse-kicking I was good at. It got results.’
Joe Hunter’s mission on this occasion, is a personal one. His estranged half-brother, John Tefler has gone missing in the U.S. of A. John has always been a bit of a try-hard schemer – only his schemes and his luck never seem to work out. Joe has to track down his brother, who has not only managed to attract the unwanted attention of the Syndicate, after he disappears with some counterfeit money printing plates, but also the attention of one of America’s most brutal serial killers, Tubal Cain.
Dead Men’s Dust is written in two styles, alternating chapter by chapter. The first style is first person and the story is viewed from Joe Hunter’s point of view. This is effective to a point, but towards the middle of the book it is a bit frustrating because of the other events happening in the book – but let me explain. The other style, every second chapter is written in third person and recounts the gruesome exploits of Tubal Cain. As we move through the story, Tubal Cain moves ahead of Joe Hunter in the story arc, and as such in the middle there is a small portion where Hunter is really playing catch up and planning his next move – while we readers are far ahead of him. Thankfully Hilton keeps these chapters relatively brief. The frustrating thing here is that Hunter is such an enjoyable character, especially when he is ‘let loose’ that we are left wanting and waiting. But we don’t have to wait for too long and the tense, atmospheric ending is well worth it.
Overall, I’d say that Dead Men’s Dust is a bloody good read. It does what it aims to do – and that is provide a rollercoaster ride riddled with bullets and broken bones, and it is packaged with a slick sense of style and pace. The publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, certainly did the right thing by Hilton down in Australia. Especially on a ‘street level’ where bright yellow and magenta Joe Hunter posters covered every wall and building site hording. In store it was backed up with a ‘publishers promise’ – enjoy the book or your money back. Well, they’re are pretty safe. I enjoyed Dead Men’s Dust from the knee splintering opening to the gruesome knife wielding last pages, and I am eagerly looking forward to the follow up Judgment and Wrath which is due out later this year.
Just a brief warning – this story does feature a serial killer – a serial killer whose prefered weapon is a scaling knife – so if you’re a little bit queasy then this may not be the book for you.
Right now, Joe Hunter’s big problem is a missing little brother, last seen fleeing the site of a gruesome killing. Hunter needs the help of an old army buddy, a whole lot of hardware and a trip to Little Rock, Arkansas, to fix this particular problem.
A brutal encounter with some very nasty criminals leaves Hunter fighting for his life. And that’s before he comes up against America’s most feared serial killer, ‘The Harvestman’, and his grisly souvenirs of death.
But blood is thicker than water. And a lot of blood will be spilt . . .
DEAD MEN’S DUST introduces Joe Hunter, an all action hero with a strong moral code. Like the gunslingers of the Wild West, Hunter is not afraid to use his weapons and his fists – but only to save the victims from the bad guys.