Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
Good airplane reading
on 7 September 2008
It might be helpful to know that Survivor is a sequel to Tom Cain's first book, The Accident Man. I mention this because it is not made explicitly clear on the book's cover or the inside flap. Both books are about Samuel Carver, a professional hit man who specializes in assassinations that looks like accidents. A third book is in the works.
After a short prologue, Survivor opens approximately 3 months after the conclusion of The Accident Man. Carver is in a Swiss sanitorium, suffering the effects of being tortured at the end of the previous book. Survivor starts sluggishly, taking about 100 pages to introduce the various characters and fill in Carver's back story. It finally takes off when Carver's love interest, the exotic Russian spy Alix Petrova, goes back to work for her former KGB handlers, who also try to knock Carver off, but instead propel him back into his former world. From there, it's a highly readable, fast-paced thriller that barely lets up. As with The Accident Man, the plot derives from real life events which adds a small semblance of credibility. One thing I disliked about The Accident Man was the way that Carver was supposedly this professional at the top of his game but could turn into a bumbling amateur for love. Thankfully in Survivor he has much better control of himself and his abilities.
Cain still has a problem with character development. The relationship between Alix and Carver is a major plot element but it never feels credible. Likewise the arch-villain's motivations are silly in the extreme. The ending also felt rushed, as if Cain had a deadline to meet and lost interest in what he was writing. There is one character who appears throughout the book because she is key to the conclusion, and then she barely rates a mention in the final chapters.
Survivor is not the best thriller I've read this year, but it's still a fast paced and exciting read that makes an excellent distraction for a few hours. 3.5 stars.