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All Promise With No Pay-Off
on 5 August 2011
Hunted is a frustrating book. It has some great moments, but it also has some horribly clunky and/or horribly cliched ones too. Worst of all it builds up its story only to leave every single-plot thread hanging and offers no form or cathartic resolution to reward the reader's patience. Its all set-up without a decent payoff.
The great moments can pretty much all be found in the first half of the book as Danny Shanklin is framed and forced to go, very publicly, on the run. His helter-skelter chase through central London is brilliantly handled and keeps you utterly gripped. The set piece in Harrods is a particular high-point. Rees also manages to keep it all within the realms of plausibility, with no overt James Bond super-heroics. Once that very immediate dash comes to an end however, the high points grow fewer and further between. There's a car chase that's reasonably well done, and a good twist towards the end that I didn't see coming, but that's about it.
Everything else on offer feels rather stale and cliched. Danny Shanklin is straight out of central casting; loner, former-CIA man with tortured past including murdered wife and son and estranged daughter. He offers nothing fresh and new in terms of characterisation and his one-dimensional mulling over his unhappy past grows pretty wearisome after a while. I've never understood why thriller writers insist on giving their leading characters difficult private lives or tortured personal histories; I think they believe it will make them more 'interesting' when in my opinion its a lazy and mostly unsuccessful short-hand method for giving characters depth and complexity.
The addition of Lexie, Shanklin's daughter, there solely to become imperilled and give Shanklin something else to fight for, is another horrible cliche, straight out of movies like 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' or 'True Lies'. Her presence simply serves to slow down the pace of the second half and give Shanklin something else to be tortured about. You never actually fear for her ultimate safety and since she and her father remain firmly one-dimensional characters you don't really care about their relationship.
There's also a series of extended flashbacks that appear to have walked in from another book entirely, in this case a serial killer mystery, and are intended to provide Shanklin with added depth but go into too much detail doing so and just slow the primary action down even more. Add in a nefarious plot that remain so utterly opaque until the final few pages that its not able to fire your imagination, and cast of nameless 'bad-guys' who flit in and out but remain charisma free throughout, and once Shanklin stops running there's not very much to really hold the reader's attention.
Then there's the ending. All would-be readers should be warned going in that this is part 1 of a longer, larger story. Unlike many first volumes in a series however, Rees offer absolutely nothing in terms of a satisfying conclusion. There's not even a small pay-off for Shanklin in return for all his efforts; not a modicum of revenge or sense of justice being even partly done. After all the build-up 'Hunted' just ends, leaving everything open for the next volume. Its not that I was expecting everything to be tied up neatly in the final few pages, but some sort of resolution to a few minor plot-threads would have been welcome. Instead it feels like someone has arbitarily sliced a larger book in two or three. It might increase demand for the next volume but its also ulimately unsatisfying.
I obtained Hunted through the Vine Programme. Were the next volume of Shanklin's adventures to be offered to me in the same way I would consider accepting them, mostly out of curiosity about where Rees will take the story next. The same would be the case if they were available at a low price on Amazon. There's isn't enough here however, beyond a basic adrenalin rush in the early stages, to demand that the next volume be given an automatic place on my list of future reading.