Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
A startling debut that is as intriguing as it is propulsive, telling the tale of a tough protagonist whose past defines the actions of her future, and that of others.
K J Howe sets herself up not only crafting a debut of considerable power; but what appears to be the commencement of a series of International Thriller Novels. A tall order indeed as readers know, when a series starts, there comes backstory which can become baggage that slows the narrative. Howe’s debut overcomes these hurdles for we start right in the epicentre of the storm; and the backstory is injected into the proceedings like the rings within a mighty tree trunk, striating the narrative and penetrating the enigma of Thea Paris, hostage negotiator and exfiltration expert.
Apart from an intriguing plot, it’s the characterisation of Thea Paris that should be remarked upon. Paris is plagued by events many years in the past, but in her eyes as fresh as headlines in a newspaper. As a child growing up in Africa; her older brother was kidnapped, resulting in a trauma that affected the family and lives on today. Despite the successful return of Nikos, it changed little Thea; altering the direction of her life. Often the events of the past, as well as their consequences lay the seeds of our futures. Two decades later, lightening strikes again, but this time it’s her industrialist father, Christos Paris the wealthy 60 year old Oil Magnate who is abducted; with his yacht and crew attacked in what appears like a military operation by professionals.
Unlike in her past, Thea is no longer the frightened eight year old kid, but an elite operative experienced in Kidnap, Ransom and Exfiltration, so she alerts her colleagues at Quantum Security International, as Conan Doyle’s Holmes once uttered, ‘the game’s afoot, Watson’. The most intriguing aspect to Christos’ abduction and the murder of his people on the yacht is that there are no demands, no ransom – just mysterious words in Latin.
Thea and her colleagues [including the resourceful US intelligence’s Gabrielle Farrah], after digging find little surprise that Mr Paris had many enemies, friends and adversaries. One does not become an industrialist of the stature of Christos Paris without ruffling many feathers, especially when allegiances shift like yellow dunes trapped in a Saharan sandstorm trapping families and whoever comes in the path of the storm. It also appears that the Industrialist was close to closing a significant business deal.
Filled with trade-craft, espionage techniques, as well as a vast array of characters and compassion, this action orientated thriller twisted and turned like an African river. It delves into many themes, which at times was revelatory and at times perplexing; though with Thea Paris; her confidence and that of her cohorts, one did feel a sense of reassurance that she would be able to manage despite what was thrown at her, and her team.
When I put the book down, I shook it hard and listened for any rattle. There was silence, for it has been judiciously edited for in these times of reduced attention spans there was not a superfluous turn of phrase, exposition, word, or dammit - not even a stray semi-colon. Though there was an odour of Cordite remaining in the room forcing the reader to open the window.
Highly recommended for those seeking the comfort and thrills that an international thriller can provide in a world where fact and fiction seem intertwined. I am sure we will be hearing again from Thea Paris before too long, and with the cinematic nature of Howe’s confident writing style, dare I say on a screen as well as a page.
Editor's note: The ebook is published on February 26 2017, the paperback will be released on 27 July 2017.