My plan for today was to post about the new Nick Heller novel: House on Fire by Joseph Finder. But one thing led to another, and . . . well, that just didn’t happen (and I’m not sure when it will). Instead, I’ll be revisiting my posts about the first three in this thriller series. The first two have already been posted, and here’s the third.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones:
– Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene ii
Everyone’s favorite private spy, Nick Heller, is back. This Jack Reacher with a budget gets hired to head off a scandal that may threaten the career of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He’s not hired by the Justice, of course, but by a powerful friend. Washington, D.C. being Washington, D. C. not only does the Justice have powerful friends, he has powerful enemies. Heller assumes that they’re behind the scandal breaking on the gossip website, and sets his sites on not only stopping them but exposing them.
There’s more going on than even someone with Heller’s instincts expect — what seems like a pretty routine case (with high stakes) turns into something with life or death stakes. Not shocking, it’s why we read these things.
I love the way that Heller’s mind works — watching him prepare (even quickly) to break into an apartment, or take out a group of kidnappers is one of the highlights of these books. What’s even better is that his hacker can’t do everything. His buddies/colleagues make blunders. What’s more, Heller makes mistakes — errors in judgement, letting personal biases get in the way, bad assumptions. Sure, Heller’s super-human (it’s why we read him), but he’s not perfect. It’s his reaction to the mistakes, his recalculations, his new plans that separate Heller from a lot of these characters who are a little more perfect.
There’s a twist or two, people who aren’t what they seem (in good and bad ways for Heller), and some solid fight scenes (with and without weapons). Pretty much just what you want in a thriller. I’m not sure that I’m crazy about the resolution or the epilogue, but I don’t mind them and honestly I can’t think of a better way for things to play out (and before that, I had just that one complaint). So, I guess a great 380 or so pages, followed by a decent 20.
It took less than a page or two (hard to tell on my screen) to remember what I liked about the style of this series, Heller’s voice, and his crew (although this book relied less on his regular supporting cast than the previous two). If I quoted every snappy line from the first chapter, you’d stop reading this post as tl;dr (and the publisher would come after me) — and things got better from there. Great internal dialogue. Finder writes lean prose without an inch of fat, but it’s not dry, not lacking anything — it’s full of personality and intelligence. There was one thread that seemed pretty important that Finder just abandoned, which is odd for him. Still, anytime you get an action hero quipping about coffee, I’m going to pay attention.
I had coffee. I took one sip and put it down. It tasted like something brewed by someone who disapproved of coffee.
I appreciated the observation about airport/tarmac security, and just with that Heller had spent more time with that. Maybe in the fourth book?
Smooth prose, good action, well-paced, and just a fun story. A real pleasure to read from beginning to end.
I received this book from Net Galley in return for the above thoughts. Thanks to Net Galley and Dutton for the good read. As it was an ARC, there’s a chance that the quotation above might not be in the published version, I’ll try to confirm as soon as I can next month.