An F-18 Navy fighter careens out of the blue sky above the Mojave desert. A TV cameraman, who grew up in a small town just miles away, can see what is going to happen next. Frantically, Wes Stewart races to the downed jet and tries to save the pilot’s life. When the plane explodes, Wes escapes without harm – and plunges into a murderous conspiracy. It’s been fifteen years since Wes has been back to the desolate landscape of his childhood. Now, he finds himself up against the US military, the local police and someone who is tracking his every move. In the moments he spent with the dying pilot, Wes discovered something that could get him killed. But while he tries to untangle a web of lies and secrets surrounding the crash, another danger is stalking him. And this one he will never see coming…
Brett Battles is a new author for me and I’m always keen to discover new thriller writers, so was delighted to receive a copy of this gripping stand alone. Centring on the character of Wes Stewart, who finds himself embroiled in a military conspiracy, I fairly raced through this one, with its clipped chapters and cleverly measured twists in the plot to keep you thinking just one more chapter, just one more chapter…
I loved the cinematic set-up of the plot, with the story revolving around the desolate and sinister beauty of the Mojave desert, and the initial, seemingly foolhardy, approach by Wes, to the crashed fighter plane is edge of the seat stuff indeed. On his discovery that there is a conspiracy to conceal the pilot’s true identity, Wes not only has to negotiate the threats to him and his fellow film crew, with his refusal to let things lie, but also finds some nasty secrets from his past life come to the surface as he retreads the familiar territory of his youth. The whole plot centres around the themes of trust and loyalty, as Wes hooks up with his former buddy Lars, now a naval officer himself, to uncover the conspiracy, but how far can Lars be trusted and who is seeking retribution on them both? As the net tightens in both strands of the plot, Wes faces some uncomfortable truths about his past as well as finding himself in increasing physical danger. It’s a thrilling ride!
The characters are nicely drawn as the tale brings into juxtaposition the flighty world of Wes’ TV crew and the diva antics of their presenter Monroe Banks, with the discipline and regimentation of the military protagonists. Wes is a likeable character, as a bit of an all action guy with a touch of a soft centre, as we discover through his relationship with make-up girl Anna, and the former actions of his youth which are now coming back to haunt him. There is a natural feel to the dialogue and banter between the film crew, which lightens the tension of the central plot, and the military antagonists are, in true thriller style, sinister enough to garner the reader’s inherent mistrust.
I think the key to this book though is the sheer pace of the storytelling as I mentioned in my intro. It really is a page-turner with an extremely effective use of varying chapter lengths. As the plot revolves around a military conspiracy, there is a good amount of high octane action, tempered by the tension of gaining access and breaking into military installations to reveal the truth behind the conspiracy. Most of the characters find themselves in some kind of physical danger or threat in the course of the book, and with the great twist in the plot involving Wes’ formative years, there is more than enough going on to keep the thrills and spills coming, and for us as readers to try and work out who the bad guys really are.
I do like a thriller that just carries you along with a good pace of action and credible characters, and on this showing, I would definitely seek out more of Brett Battles’ books. I have already been sussing out his established Jonathan Quinn and Project Eden series on fellow blogger’s sites, which have attracted good reviews, so delighted I have found a new writer with a great backlist.
Find out more about Brett Battles at his website here:
JONATHAN QUINN SERIES:
PROJECT EDEN SERIES:
(With thanks to Arrow Books for the ARC)