Slash and Burn by Matt Hilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was always going to like this one. The title being a steal (probably not) from one of the best from one of my favourite bands, the Manic Street Preachers – and Mr Hilton liking Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and all. Oh, and a big hug and extra points for featuring my surname as a town. Erm…That aside, the book is a rip-roaring ride through small-town America and big-town crime. With the emphasis on the rip and also the roaring.
Our hero, Joe Hunter, is minding his own business when the sister (“She was the double of Kate. Slightly shorter, slightly heavier of build, but she would have passed as Kate’s twin rather than her older sibling.” So, different, but identical?) of an ex-Special Forces colleague (we’re already being put in the frame of mind, by the book jacket blurb using ‘mate’ to bring the ordinary side of Joe Hunter forward and make sure that we feel ‘well, yeah, you do that for a ‘mate’ don’t you?), gets in touch to enlist Hunter’s help in finding her sister, who has disappeared. From there on, we learn that the sister has uncovered something about dirty business and crime in a small American city and the helping hand Hunter offers is in serious danger of being shot, chopped or otherwise forcibly removed.
One thing I did wonder while reading, is why isn’t Hunter’s English/Manchester (?) accent used more in the stories? I’ve only read three so far, but plan to read them all, and have the next few lined up (I’m trying to find them all as hardcovers…you understand how it is, don’t you?), so maybe it comes in more, later. Anyway, the accent is mentioned once (as I remember) here, but not made much of. I’d have thought it was a rich seam to mine, if only for spreading confusion – even fear? – amongst the American criminal fraternity Hunter seems to come up against. It would also neatly separate Hunter from the ‘Reacher.’ If you know what I mean. The good point about the criminals Hunter is up against here actually, is that despite the cover’s ‘psychopath’ label, they aren’t. Not really. They’re not the ‘don’t get mad, get even’ variety, they get mad and they get even, but they are, how can I say, more understandable – and more threatening – for not being barking at the moon-mad. Making a nice change from books one and two. Hunter’s other difference from Another of this Sort, is that he has friends who help him. I think Liam Neeson as Brian Mills in Taken.
It is still sometimes a bumpy ride here and there, as Matt Hilton does seem to feel the need to be sure we know Hunter knows that it isn’t really ok to go around and feel ok about killing bad guys. It’s written as if Hunter is convincing himself, when really it is Matt Hilton convincing us that he and Hunter are actually on the moral side of law and order, rather than getting your retaliation in first and ask questions after anarchy. I think we’re all onboard with Hunter being the good guy here and so would be along with a ‘end justifying the means’ story without worrying about if it was strictly politically correct. We always have to be told “well, he hit me first!” So that it’s ok then to enjoy the baddies getting theirs’.
All in all, my over-riding impression was that with the third book here, the series is really getting stuck in. Under my skin, anyway. It’s getting into its stride, developing, becoming better – the character of Joe Hunter and the writing of Matt Hilton. There are good signs of a distinctive style to both and I’m feeling I was right to get hold of further books before I’d read the previous, if you get my drift.
Buy Slash and Burn at The Book Depository
Me, on Goodreads