Father Night by Eric Van Lustbader is a spy thriller in the Jack McClure/Alli Carson series (available September 18, 2012).
A rocket propelled grenade missing you by a whisper would shake you up less than this cracking piece of writing. It starts off as one thing then becomes another then just when you settle down, thinking you have got a handle on it, the story leaps into yet another character’s life and the fast paced action continues.
Eric Van Lustbader is a master storyteller and the words in Father Night rip off the page like a demon’s whip. The lines “There’s no good answer here.” “When it comes to the Middle East, there never will be.” set the tone of the story just before the plot takes off on a rollercoaster ride of a lifetime.
Jack McClure is back and he’s taking no prisoners in this latest installment. The action leaps from Moscow to Washington to Saint Petersburg to Rome and all points in between. I haven’t actually been left breathless by a book in a long time, but this one did that and then some. It is impossible to take you step by step through the book without completely giving the twists and plot turns away. Suffice to say it is Boys From Brazil meets Puppet on a Chain with a hint of Nikita thrown in for good measure.
On one hand, it is about a dead president, possibly, then the double crossing becomes triple crossing morphing into quadruple crossing. Dead president? That’s just for starters.
McClure has to smuggle a Russian out of Moscow, dead but not really dead. A circus in Saint Petersburg provides the cover and the opportunity to move things forward. With all the action and the twists of this book, it’s good to grab a coffee, take a break, and then dive back into the book before it is off to Washington where the bullets fly fast, thick, and even.
The thrills aren’t constrained to the action of the plot. Strong male leads issue lines like, “I will rob you of all your five senses, one at a time, unless you talk,” and make even the reader squirm and think I’ll talk, Mr. McClure, I’ll talk! The suspense is embedded in new dark characters like The Syrian, and you know he is plotting a sticky end for you, even as he stirs a cup of that nice black coffee they are so renowned for. The pacing as the reader is teased, clobbered, slapped back to life, tickled, lied to, cheated on, shot at, and, of course, stabbed multiple times, is something which many try to accomplish but few manage to really pull off.
The men are not the only ones capable of delivering the killer blows. Multiple female characters hurl themselves through the book, with grace and power. Alli Carson, daughter of the aforementioned possibly-dead president and surrogate daughter of McClure, has joined in the fight and has a wonderful, believable sense of detachment her Sensei would be proud of. Keep an eye out for Annika, as well (a Russian female Jason Statham) . . . if you don’t, she’ll take the eye out for you.
Lustbader knows his stuff and he grabs you and pushes your face right into it, yet, his real skill is in the quiet, subtle, subdued prose. This is what really sets him apart. Evil and intrigue drip off the wall, yet no one is shouting or issuing threats. The guns are silent and the men talk in not much more than a whisper. You sit on the edge of your seat hoping they don’t realize you are there. You think this is about unleashing chaos in the Middle East for one of the big three—money, sex, or power—but Lustbader, through McClure, delivers a far richer, complex and, frankly stunning thriller. I couldn’t put it down.
Is there such a thing as perfection? No, I don’t think so, but sometimes one draws close to it. Is there a flaw in this yarn? Of course. At one point, two characters smoke a couple of Cubans. The ash falls off during their exchange. The ash would never fall from a Cuban Cohiba in such a short time span unless it was deliberately flicked off. A detail, absolutely, but one which is great fun.
I hope one day, if Mr. Lustbader is ever around the Via Veneto, at some point, I will bring him a Cuban Cohiba—we’ll have to do it in Rome since it’s illegal in the U.S.—and I will cut it, light it, and tip my Borsalino Quito Pork Pie in the direction of a true master. Pork Pie, you ask? Read this cracker of a thriller and find out . . .
Want a taste of Father Night by Eric Van Lustbader? Read the excerpt of the Prologue and Chapter 1 and enter for a chance to win both First Daughter and Last Snow.
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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.