“Reznick’s heart jolted as the penlight picked out the dead eyes of the crumpled, semi-naked body of a blond-haired man, staring back at him. Telltale purple bruises around the neck and throat, hemorrhaging around the eyes. Reznick had seen this sort of thing before. Many times. The man had been manually strangled.”
Hard Road, by J.B. Turner
Exhibit A, July 2013
299 pages (ebook)
Since his wife died on 9/11, Jon Reznick has worked hard to keep his shadowy world hidden from his eleven-year-old daughter. But when he’s ordered by his handler to assassinate a man in an exclusive Washington DC hotel, he discovers the target is not at all who he at first appears to be.
Quickly ensnared in a web of murder, extortion and treachery, Reznick finds himself fighting to outwit not only the clandestine group intent on hunting him down, but also to evade capture by FBI Assistant Director Martha Meyerstein.
But it’s not only Reznick’s survival that’s at stake. A terrifying plot by a foreign government to bring the United States to its knees is underway. And only Reznick can stop it.
*** I requested this review copy through NetGalley. ***
I’ve heard great things about Angry Robot Books, so when I saw this book from their crime fiction imprint, I knew I had to pick it up.
Hard Road immediately reminded me of David Baldacci’s The Innocent, which starts much the same way… with a professional killer and a job that doesn’t seem quite right. Reznick is quite a bit darker than Baldacci’s hero, though, and while his stakes are more personal and his backstory more tragic, I found it hard to connect with him.
While the early part of the book has plenty going on, it didn’t grab me. The beginning is all Reznick’s searching for answers and Meyerstein’s searching for him, interspersed with flashbacks into Reznick’s past that, unfortunately, slow down the action. I was curious, and I was reading, but I wasn’t really invested.
Once it picked up, though — somewhere close to the halfway point — it had me until the end. There’s a shift in the story, additional viewpoints, additional conflict, and more tension and urgency. The flashbacks all but disappear, and the pacing is much better for it. It’s hard to go into any more detail without giving anything away. I’m sure not every reader would have the same reaction, but to me, it was almost like reading two different books.
In the end, Hard Road delivered an energetic and pulse-pounding thriller… even if it did take a while to get there.
This is J.B. Turner’s debut novel, and the first in a planned series. Despite my somewhat mixed feelings for Hard Road, I mostly enjoyed it, and I do plan to pick up the next book when it comes out.
Hard Road is available in print, as well as for Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers.
Does this sound like something you’d pick up? Is it hard for you to enjoy a book when you don’t connect with the main character?