It can be difficult going about a review of a second novel in a series. What are you going to say about the second instalment that you didn’t say about the first? Have you already used up all of the best comparisons and contrasts and so you can’t help repeating yourself? Given that we are talking here about a thriller you begin to wonder did you use “adrenalin rush” or “rollercoaster” for book one.
All of those concerns lie before me as I try to put together a fair and yet fresh review of The Evolution of Fear by Paul Hardisty. Last year I reviewed his first novel The Abrupt Physics of Dying and told you that in Clay Straker he had given us a leading man who could one day compare with Bond and Bourne. What can I tell you now, other than that day has already come.
I hardly want to say anymore. You don’t want me giving away any of the intricacies of the plot but I can tell you that we quickly sail from Cornwall to Turkey and Cyprus. We are again faced with not only brutal international criminals but also environmental disaster and Clay Straker is again taken to the very limits of human endurance as he tries desperately to maintain his own sanity and the safety of those he loves.
The action starts straight away with Straker in hiding with a price on his head. Discovered and possibly betrayed he is forced to move and try to grab the initiative. He seeks out Rania fearful that he has made her a target, with the intention of going into hiding together, but neither of them can realistically run away from a matter of conscience and always in the background is Clay’s torment from the sins of his past.
From the pages of this novel comes a high powered adrenalin shot that has you diving into an adventure fraught with danger. Occasionally you will come up for air, to remind yourself that this is not happening to you but to characters on a page, but those characters will so grab your attention and your concern that they will come alive as you cling onto them for a ride into a murky world of politics, capitalism and crime.
This is dynamite thriller writing and Clay Straker is an affecting and memorable lead character and it is the drawing of the characters that is crucial to elevate Hardisty’s work from set piece action to something you genuinely care about. I have said previously that Straker was made for the big screen but perhaps there is an example in Jason Bourne of how the transference from novel to movie can diminish that depth of involvement that the original trilogy possessed but which the films could not capture.
Hardisty is already an award winner and surely more recognition will follow as he proves now that he is not a one hit wonder but can deliver some longevity. More than awards though his writing deserves to be read and enjoyed, thriller fans should be waiting excitedly for every new release knowing that with Hardisty on the spine they are guaranteed something special. I would happily position him as a Ludlum for a new time, he provides us with classic thrills in an up to date and relevant context. He should be on the best seller lists and thriller fans should be queuing up to put him there.