Reviewed by Rod McLary
The genre of crime and thriller fiction is a tough arena to break into. Populated by giants of the genre such as Ian Rankin, James Lee Burke and Harlen Coben – just to name a very small few – competition is fierce. As an aficionado of the genre, I always look forward to discovering a new writer who can take his/her place comfortably with the others. In 2018, I read the first adult novel by a young writer Jack Heath featuring his protagonist Timothy Blake – a equally young consultant with the Houston office of the FBI. The book was Hangman. Timothy identified himself as ‘criminally insane’ but had a brilliance in detecting which was in demand by the FBI. His reward for solving the unsolvable was unique to Timothy. The book demonstrated an author’s imagination which would engage even the most jaundiced readers of the genre.
In 2019, Jack Heath wrote his second Timothy Blake book Hunter. Hideout is now his third to feature Timothy Blake. Both Hangman and Hunter have been reviewed in these pages.
For those readers new to the series, Timothy has a somewhat unusual predilection. Although it is less of a secret in this book than it was in the first two, it is better left to the reader to discover what it is for her/himself lest advance knowledge dissuades the new reader from opening the book.
While it is not necessary to have read the first two books to fully enjoy this one, it would be helpful particularly as Hideout follows on immediately from Hunter. The latter book ends with:
I let go of the hammer and let my shirt fall back down to cover it.
‘The other guys?’ I say. 
and Hideout begins with:
The other guys?’ I say.
‘Sure.’ Fred smiles. ‘You didn’t think it was just me out here, did you?’ 
There are however sufficient contextual details provided in the book to ensure that any new reader will not be lost.
Again, Jack Heath has crafted a chilling and sometimes confronting thriller which mines the darkest side of human nature. In his play Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen has a character say ‘people don’t do such things!’ – well, if only that were true. Readers of Hideout will soon realise that people will do such things and more besides. A good example may be:
The prisoners are all here, eyes squeezed shut or wide with insane terror. I feel their fear as their former – colleague? friend? – is shredded by hidden metal teeth. They must have seen this before. But some things you don’t get used to. [p168]
The so-called prisoners are held in an isolated house deep in the Texas wilderness and supervised by the Guards. Each of the prisoners is believed to have committed a heinous crime and is being sadistically punished by the Guards for the enjoyment of on-line subscribers to a website hidden deep within the dark web. Timothy was given the task of locating and rescuing the prisoners and directing local FBI officers to the house to capture the Guards. Stumbling across the house almost by chance, to save himself he is obliged to adopt the persona of Shannon Luxford [one of the on-line subscribers] – known as Lux – whom fortuitously no one knows other than by name.
With part of his mind on behaving as Lux would and the other part on looking out for a way of rescuing the prisoners, Timothy is now immersed in a psychopathic nightmare. When a new prisoner turns out to be Reese Thistle – an FBI agent and Timothy’s lover – the stakes rise significantly.
Complicating matters a little further is the gradual realisation by Timothy that one of the Guards – Kyle – may be his son. When he was young and homeless and, proving he was of age by using an ID card stolen from a law student, Timothy sold his semen to raise money to survive. Seventeen or so years later, Kyle disclosed to Timothy that his absentee father was a sperm donor and may have been a law student.
Weaving these strands into a credible and suspenseful thriller is no easy task but is one which Jack Heath manages seemingly without effort. Timothy Blake for all his dark and sinister characteristics is still a protagonist who garners the reader’s sympathy as he plays his game of cat and mouse with the Guards, the prisoners and Reese Thistle. While some incidents in the book may be confronting to say the least, it is a book which engages the reader from beginning to end. As a counterpoint to the rather brutal behaviour of the Guards, Jack Heath leavens the mood with a touch of humour here and there.
For all those readers who will enjoy the book, there is the promise of a fourth in the series as, at the end of Hideout, Timothy is offered another job by one of the Guards who – in an interesting twist – turns out to be not quite the person the reader believed her to be.
Jack Heath is an award-winning author of more than thirty books most of which are for children. His first crime novel for adults Hangman was a best seller and has been translated into French, German, Russian and Serbian. It was followed by Hunter and now Hideout.
by Jack Heath
Allen & Unwin
ISBN 978 1 76087 717 0