Hunter by Jack Heath

hunter9781760527082

Reviewed by Rod McLary

Hunter is Jack Heath’s second adult book. Prior to his first adult book – Hangman published in early 2018 – he was a successful author of children’s and young adults’ books.

In reviewing Hangman in these pages in January 2018, I wrote [f]or a young writer who has just written his first adult novel in a field as tough as the crime genre, this is an excellent start.

About the conclusion of Hangman, I wrote –

an unexpected benefactor comes to his rescue with the offer of another job. Perhaps, this is a hint that another story about Timothy is to come.

It is pleasing that in both respects I was proved correct. Jack Heath’s second book is just as good as the first – perhaps even a little better now that the author appears more comfortable in the role of adult author. Hunter also has Timothy Blake as the main protagonist – a little older now and a little more mature but still with the same predilection as he had in the first book.

This time round, Timothy is in his new job – that of body disposal expert working for a major crime lord in Houston Texas. Dead bodies are the by-product of the crime lord’s work and these bodies are delivered in great secrecy to Timothy for him to dispose of in the way that only he can. To say any more about this would be a major spoiler. It is better left for the reader to discover Timothy’s method in his/her own time.

The book opens with a sentence which hooks the reader in from the beginning

If Charlie Warner wants you dead, first she steals your shoes. [1]

Timothy waiting for the delivery of a body on a lonely and deserted road. While he is waiting, he accidentally discovers another body. The second body is that of man recently reported missing by his wife and the FBI is called in to locate him. An FBI agent – Reese Thistle [whom readers of the first book will recognise] – reluctantly asks Timothy to assist her. Timothy is equally reluctant to assist but is persuaded partly because of his and Reese’s earlier relationship. He soon discovers that the body he found is that of the missing man. However, he cannot reveal the location of the body without also revealing his secret – and criminal – role with the crime lord.

Soon, another person is reported as missing – and then another. Timothy becomes more and more involved in assisting Agent Thistle in locating these missing men while, at the same time, needing to protect himself and his connection with the crime lord.

To further complicate matters, Timothy and Reese begin to ‘develop feelings for each other’. They consummate their relationship in Timothy’s house which, as the reader already knows by this time, is full of clues which would not only incriminate Timothy but also jeopardise his relationship with Reese.

There are multiple and complex strands to this novel which, as it progresses to its dénouement, gradually become entwined. Along the way, Timothy runs up against the owner of a sex-doll factory, a psychopathic sexual predator and his victims – while all the while trying to stay one step ahead of his boss the crime lord, the psychopathic predator and Agent Thistle. Tension escalates as the end nears and, just as the reader starts to believe he/she can resolve the many strands, there is a final unexpected twist. There is without doubt a third book on its way.

Timothy is a complex character and, in the hands of a lesser writer, it would be almost impossible for the reader to develop much sympathy for him. However, Jack Heath has written enough about Timothy, his tragic background and his moral system for the reader to – at least – have some understanding of why he does what he does. It helps that Timothy is very aware of the kind of person he is and, in that sense, he is brutally honest about himself and what he does.

Timothy says of himself:

But I’ve done terrible things anyway, things I can’t take back. I’ll never be able to look at a stranger without knowing, in a flash, what their insides look like, I’ll never hear a knock on the door without wondering if it’s the police. I can never have an unguarded conversation with anyone. [123-124]

It is a challenging book to read. Readers of Jack Heath’s first book will know what to expect and will not be too surprised. New readers may well be shocked but as Bob Dylan once said ‘sometimes I like to be shocked out of my skin’. If you fall into that category, then you will not be disappointed. It is not necessary to have read the first book Hangman to fully understand and enjoy Hunter. While both books centre on Timothy and Reese, there is sufficient background provided in the more recent book for the reader to be satisfied.

Jack Heath now lives in Canberra and is the best-selling author of over 25 books for children and young adults. He has sold over 200,000 books world-wide and has been translated into several languages. His debut adult novel Hangman was a huge success.

Hunter

[2019]

by Jack Heath

Allen and Unwin

ISBN 978 1 76052 708 2

411pp; $29.99

 

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