THE KILLING SEASON

Written by Mason Cross

Review written by Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is the author of 22 crime and spy thrillers. His next book ‘Rocco and the Nightingale’ (The Dome Press), the fifth in his French police series set in Picardie in the 1960s, is out on 19 October 2017 More information https://www.adrianmagson.com/


THE KILLING SEASON
Orion
RRP: £12.99
Released: 24th April 2014
Trade Pbk

A prison-transfer break, apparently aimed at freeing petty criminal Clarence Mitchell, fails to work out as intended, and sets off a chain of events involving Death Row inmate Caleb Wardell, an infamous former US Marine Corps sniper and multiple killer, who just happened to be in the same vehicle.

Wardell has an agenda he is desperate to pursue, and being in prison won’t allow him to do that. Neither will the death sentence. He loses no time in taking advantage of the situation, and leaves behind no prisoners and no witnesses.

Appalled at the possible outcome, and forced by an election year atmosphere to use any means they can to find and stop Wardell, the FBI call in expert people-tracker, Carter Blake, who has his own knowledge of Wardell and Iraq, where they first met. This doesn’t go down well with some FBI members, but Special Agent Elaine Banner, who is handed the case, is happy enough to go along with it.

It is soon clear that the FBI and Blake share different methods and agendas. Blake has his own way of working, and his own knowledge of Wardell’s background. He suspects Wardell will go where he is least expected.

The problem is Wardell is an expert in covert techniques learned and perfected as a sniper, and knows how to stay below the skyline. What neither of them knows, however, is that Wardell is being used by forces in the shadows.

But that’s where this story gets interesting, as Blake goes after the killer, all the while aware that even Agent Banner might not share his techniques and instincts for following their prey. He doesn’t have time to spare fighting off internal FBI politics and methodology, however, because every instinct tells him where Wardell will turn up next.

Set against a huge manhunt by the invariably rigid FBI machine, this comes down in the end to a fascinating duel of moves between two experts in their own fields: one the hunter, the other the hunted. Thrown into the mix is Agent Banner, the third point of the triangle, at times struggling with the demands of her career while her daughter is in the care of her sister.

But while it’s Blake and Wardell who invariably draw most of the attention, Mason Cross has created an intriguing scenario that finally brings all three together in a make-or-break scene.

A very fine debut penned with the smooth style and skill of a much more experienced writer, this adds a new name to the gamut of special operatives and high-tension characters and plots so loved by thriller readers.

I know it’s been said already, but I’ll say it again: this is one to watch out for.

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