Jack Blackjack, the professional assassin with an aversion to killing people, is always looking for a way to make a quick profit. Selling some gunpowder to the executioner, Hal Westmecott, seemed like a problem-free enterprise – the executioner would strap a small pouch of powder around the neck of the priests sentenced to the fire to ensure their suffering was brief. But when the powder turns out to be damp, Westmecott decides that Jack owes him a favour.
It seems a simple quest – find Westmecott’s wife and son. But it rapidly becomes more complicated than that. For one thing, the priest’s brother isn’t happy with Jack either. But more importantly, it seems that the woman and boy that Jack is trying to find seem not to be who Hal claims them to be. Jack needs to find out exactly what is going on – and why everybody seems to be trying to kill him…
Reading is hard sometimes. Every September, my reading drops off, coinciding with the start of term. This year, as you might expect, things are even more difficult, with more preparation, general anxiety and basically coming home and needing to do something that doesn’t require concentration. Like reading.
But there are certain things that help. Primarily, your favourite authors releasing new books. So massive thanks to Len Tyler (see my previous review) and Michael Jecks, both friends of the blog, both for the simple reason that they write damn fine, and, most importantly, damn readable books. I can’t guarantee that these two titles have kicked my current reading malaise, but be assured – when I started reading these books, I just couldn’t put them down.
The Jack Blackjack books are a curious beast. While Michael’s other primary series, (The Last Templar Mysteries seems to be the current series title being used for the beautifully covered re-releases) are amalgams of mysteries and historical novels, whereas the Jack Blackjack novels seems to be a strange cross-breed of thrillers and… well, farces.
Basically, as Jack’s investigations are quite heavily motivated by saving his own skin, but just as things seem to straightening themselves out, another complication sends him down another peril-filled rabbit-hole. And while the reader can guess some of the upcoming plot twists and turns (but by no means all of them), quite frankly the reader won’t care. Because the book is so damned fun.
Jack’s narration is an utter joy to read. A combination of lust, wit and general panic, he is the ideal storyteller for this sort of tale, and his turns of phrase repeatedly brought a smile to my face. All in all, this is one of the most entertaining books that I’ve read all year. Yes, there’s not much of a whodunit at the heart of it (although, to be fair, there is something clever about it), this is an excellent thriller told in an enthralling voice. Exactly what I needed right now…
Death Comes Hot is out on September 30th in hardback and ebook from Severn House.
The Jack Blackjack Series