Paul Hardisty has delivered a thriller of the highest quality with The Abrupt Physics of Dying, which is published by Orenda Books, initially as an e-book, on Monday. As an entertainment it keeps the pages turning relentlessly as truth is glimpsed and then lost in uncertainty and deception, and as a story of our times it highlights the powers lurking in shadows, moving their pawns around a global chess board and casting lives into the abyss for the sake of power and profit. This is a must read novel for fans of the genre and already Claymore Straker has shown the potential to one day stand in the company of such luminaries as Bond and Bourne.
Most of the action takes place in Yemen and the setting is wonderfully described such that the reader is immersed in its geography and positioned right in the midst of events. Straker himself is flawed. His past is dark and haunts him. Up to now he has managed to bury the nightmares in a grim determination to simply do his job, never questioning his conscience, but no longer. Drawn into a devout culture he is forced to reflect on his actions and face his reckoning.
Hardisty’s own CV shows many years’ experience as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist who has lived and worked in the Middle East. Born in Canada he now lives in Australia where he is a university professor and a Director of Australia’s national science agency. He also describes himself as a pilot, sailor and explorer, who competes in ironman triathlons for fun. It’s not hard to see where the authenticity of the writing comes from as “Clay” explores the science, and the corruption of science, of oil production in Yemen.
The action is intense and violent, but the storytelling is rooted in character and culture, it has a depth that you connect with. As events unravel in front of Straker you join him in trying to understand the different agendas and perspectives that are demanding his help and loyalty. The blurred lines in his internal struggle leave room for you to wrestle with your own values and beliefs. We all make judgments every day even on the very fringes of global issues and we all turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice, allowing us to forget our part and take the easy option.
The narrative twists and turns, you have no more idea than Straker who to trust, who to believe, and you share in his fear and frustrations. It is a roller coaster ride of a read and the strength of the visual imagery seems to make it an ideal candidate for conversion to the cinema screen. If the second instalment in Straker’s story, which is due for release in around a year’s time, continues to deliver at this level then it will surely attract such attention. This is intelligent writing that both entertains and challenges and it deserves a wide audience.
The Abrupt Physics of Dying is published as e-book on December 15th
It is a generally accepted truth that exercise is good for you. It is also suggested that part of your regular workout should include a period of vigorous effort that pushes you out of your comfort zone and gets your heart rate up. Alternatively you could just read The Hummingbird, the debut novel from Finnish author Kati Hiekkapelto, and allow her writing to achieve both of those goals without you leaving your chair.
The main protagonist of the novel is Anna Fekete, a female lead with a complicated background that will no doubt be further explored as this series develops. On her first day in a new job, switching uniform for the detective scruffs of the Violent Crimes Unit, the body of a girl is found in woods with her head blown off. We’ve already run with the girl and felt her fear but it is Anna’s job to piece together what happened whilst also trying to find her place in a new station with new colleagues and come to terms with her past.
There is no time to settle into her new job, back in the city where she spent much of her childhood following her family’s escape from conflict in the Balkans. She quickly finds herself on the hunt of a possible serial killer, whilst spending her evenings off duty trying protect a girl she is convinced is a victim of honour violence and reconcile with her brother, who’s experience as an immigrant in Finland is as much a case study in failed integration as her own is of success. The encroaching darkness of the Finnish winter and the inability to switch off from pressures on so many fronts combine to create an intense atmosphere as Anna sacrifices her own mental state in trying not to let anyone down.
These different threads of story, which could threaten to overwhelm the reader, are handled well. Kurdish teenager Bihar tells her story through an extended e-mail that is intertwined with Anna’s ongoing attempts to protect her from a controlling, possibly dangerous, family, whilst the different personalities and backgrounds of the police station are revealed through their interactions with the new recruit. It feels natural as we are drawn deeper into the lives of the key people and their personal stories are expertly interwoven with the police investigation.
The only real criticism is that there was a sense that the main investigation came to a slightly abrupt ending and the horror of the crime wasn’t really justified in the motivation and psychology of the murderer. As the investigation unfolded there had been opportunities to speculate as a reader and try to work out what was happening but again when the truth was revealed it was nothing that could have been guessed at. It felt a little like an end was needed and so one was pulled out of a hat, which left a slightly unsatisfied feeling.
Having said that, for a first novel The Hummingbird delivers a lot. The perspectives on immigration feel genuine and are insightful and the writing is atmospheric and absorbing. The two police investigations, one official and one not, are balanced well and the characters are rounded and appealing such that you want to know what will happen next in both their professional and personal lives. A second instalment is on the way and I look forward to following the careers of both Anna Fekete and Kati Hiekkapelto.