Top critical review
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on 1 December 2007
The Accident Man is a mediocre thriller with an interesting premise: Samuel Carver is a freelance assassin who is hired to arrange a car accident in Paris in August 1997. (Because Carver is the hero of this book, Cain has made him an "assassin with principles" who only kills morally dubious targets like terrorists or pedophiles.) Unfortunately for Carver, he has been lied to in this instance and he finds out - too late - that his target was actually the Princess of Wales. Moreover, now that the job is done, someone is trying to kill him. His one ally is Alix, a glamorous Russian who is also on the run - but who may or may not be on his side.
The thing I liked most about this book is the grounding in an actual death (albeit one that I do not believe was an assassination). This gives it some sense of reality, something that is so often lacking in thrillers. The integration of Carver's fictional exploits with what we know about Diana's death is skillfully done. In fact, the first half of the book is great - it rips along at a cracking pace as Carver and Alix try to stay one step ahead of their pursuers.
But Tom Cain is unable to sustain the momentum and the action slows right down in the second half. The love story between Carver and Alix is formulaic and doesn't ring true. New characters are introduced seemingly for no reason other than to be killed off in the next chapter. And Carver - supposedly a hotshot hitman at the top of his game - makes a series of rash and/or poorly thought-through decisions that made me feel like hurling the book across the room in disgust.
The book ends in quite an unusual way for a thriller of this sort. Full credit to Cain for trying to write something a bit different, although I'm not sure it works. If you are after something lightweight and you're happy to disengage your brain, this is an okay choice. But keep your expectations low. I'd rate this on a par with the latter day Robert Ludlum novels (ie the ones that Ludlum didn't actually write).