Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.
If there’s an award out there for an unusual main character’s occupation, then Noah Boyd is probably in the running. His hero, Steve Vail, is a bricklayer. (And no, it’s not a euphemism for a gangland hit man - although it would be a great one, wouldn’t it? Better than Nosher or Basher or Scar Face). However, in this case, it’s a genuine job for former trained killer and FBI agent Vail, who has talked himself out of the Bureau due to insubordination and a problem with authority figures.
I digress. Someone, it seems, is killing off FBI agents, and doing so in particularly inventive ways, all under the guise of threats to kill a politician if large sums of money aren’t delivered in person to nominated drops. Unfortunately, there’s a nasty twist involved here, because for the person carrying the money, their task – and life - ends when the money is dropped. And it soon becomes clear that the death toll of FBI agents is what interests the extortionists most, not the loot.
Enter Steve Vail, who is approached by Deputy Director Kate Bannon and asked to help find out who is behind the murders and extortion. What they need, Bannon explains, is an outsider who can work on his own, because the killer or killers appear to know everything the FBI is planning ahead of the game. Recruiting Vail causes problems internally because his record is known by the senior brass, and they don’t see how or why a maverick should be allowed anywhere near what is their own back-yard problem. But their problem supersedes their reservations.
Vail agrees – reluctantly - to help, but it’s soon evident that every clue left by the killers is merely a come-on along a trail towards his own demise, as it was with previous agents. And no matter how clever the FBI thinks it is, the other guys seem to be ahead of them all the way.
But Vail is not your ordinary FBI man. He’s rough, he’s tough and he’s quite happy to shut himself off from the herd and concentrate on following his own nose rather than relying on regular interaction with the collective, the way FBI agents are supposed to. This results in more conflict with his new bosses, but that’s what his history is, so why should he be different?
Blurbed on the book cover (by James Patterson, no less) as a competitor for Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Happily, I wasn’t disappointed. I found Steve Vail an interesting new character - and one easily strong enough to stand by himself without comparisons - although he’s possibly too genial in a don’t-give-a-stuff kind of way to compare too closely character-wise to Reacher.
Noah Boyd is a former US marine and FBI agent, and clearly writes with a measure of inside knowledge (and, I suspect, one or two people in mind when building his characters). His writing is very assured and easy to read, the trail of clues intriguing enough to make it more than simply a wham-bam thriller, yet the pace fast and action-filled enough to please all thriller fans… just as long as they accept Steve Vail as he is rather than trying to see him as an imitation of someone else.