Log in Subscribe

About Books

January 21, 2022

George Ernsberger
Posted 1/21/22

The Runaway: A Peter Ash Novel by Nick Petrie (Putnam).

Targeted: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel by Stephen Hunter (Emily Bestler/Atria).

This might be awkward: two superficially similar action novels …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

About Books

January 21, 2022

Posted

The Runaway: A Peter Ash Novel by Nick Petrie (Putnam).

Targeted: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel by Stephen Hunter (Emily Bestler/Atria).

This might be awkward: two superficially similar action novels by stars of that genre, published on the very same day (official pub date for both is January 18). And they may well share some readers, but surely not all. Bob Lee Swagger, the retired Army sniper—he’s 74, now, but hasn’t lost much, and in fact he still clearly enjoys the big, complex fixes that Stephen Hunter creates for him. Here, in the twelfth of this great series, for reasons too complex to get into in coverage this brief, it climaxes in a hostage situation—Bob Lee himself, and some congresspeople, including one who has just finished giving Bob Lee a hard time. A Swagger–friendly second sniper figures in, too, but of course Bob Lee does not just wait around to be rescued.

Nick Petrie’s Peter Ash is a different kettle of action and attitude. Ash is the guy people keep comparing to the great Jack Reacher (well, this column once did, and somebody in the Times did, just now). The books follow Peter in his travels, of course—not told in first person, but that’s the point of view. Peter’s also a war veteran, but struggling with PTSD; it’s what motivates his restlessness, his on-the-road-ness you could call it; it helps keep that torment at bay. This, the seventh of this series, seems to me the best so far, which is saying a lot. Ash picks up a very pregnant young woman whose car has run out of gas, and he and we learn quickly that she’s very much on the run, from a brutal, psychopathic ex-cop husband. Petrie always takes care to give real life to other characters (given Ash’s on-the-road life, many of them, always, are new to him, and so to us); but here he goes a step further. Crucial parts of this high-tension action novel center on her, alone; we get to know her intimately. She’s brave and resourceful, and becomes, gradually, as hard as she has to be. We won’t soon forget her. I, for one, won’t be surprised if she pops up again, some day.

The Mirror Man by Lars Kepler (Knopf).

Not a thriller, but a crime and detection novel—“Nordic noir,” and very noir, indeed, as expected from this master team (a husband and wife, actually). It’s the eighth of the Joona Linna series (a senior detective on Sweden’s national police agency), about what seems to be the ugly work of a serial killer over a great span of time.

Tropic of Stupid by Tim Dorsey (Morrow).

The paperback reprint of #24 in this Florida-set series featuring the great Serge Storms, a somewhat benign and very hilarious serial killer (only bad guys, he’s pretty sure). A column favorite for decades that the column somehow overlooked last year. Florida-set, as usual; along with much mayhem, some actually beautiful writing about reef diving.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here