Published by Burning Chair, who were good enough to feature my short story The Five Votive Candles of Joe Wray in their first publication Burning, the Tom Novak books by ex-Met police officer Neil Lancaster, are continuing a strong list from the new publishers – you could do a lot worse than check out their website to learn about Neil and their other authors (even if they haven’t included me in their list…)
Anyhoo, having gotten over any possible cries of ‘vested interest’ let me tell you a little about Going Rogue.
This is the second in the Tom Novak series after last year’s Going Dark. When I reviewed that book I gave it a five star review on Amazon and suggested that for those who had found the Jack Reacher series a little tired might be interested in this as a refreshing alternative.
A year on and with the new novel now available, I still think that holds true, but reading this book I started thinking that there are as many comparisons to be made to an even more established name in the game – Jack Higgins’ Sean Dillon series.
In this sophomore tale, Tom Novak, now fully cleared after the shenanigans of the first novel, is tasked with going under cover in prison to infiltrate a neo-nazi group who are plotting a nefarious, and well financed mission which has already caused the death of a number of innocents and potentially many more, and for Novak it’s not just a job, it’s personal.
What can you expect in the novel?
Well, if you’ve read the first novel you’ll see some returning characters- some in major roles, some as cameos. You’ll get some intense prison drama (think Brubaker meets Shawshank), and even a little bit of Euro road trip buddy story. The good guys and girls are earnest, determined and committed, the bad guys are suitably dastardly. Novak himself as a hero continues to grown as a character even while dealing with his own stunted emotions and psychology. The action is well written and, at times, brutal, and the detail is as believable in terms of technical and factual detail as you would expect from someone with the author’s professional experience (see his bio) and at the same time a satisfying roller coaster of set pieces.
So the comparison to Jack Higgins? It’s a quick pace thing and the characters are hewn from the same cloth. More than anything it was the combination of clear right and wrong and style of dialogue that made me compare this slice of Novak to some of Higgin’s work: don;t expect Lancaster’s characters to speak in contractions: everything is spelled out – literally and figuratively, so subtlety or ambiguity is not the name of the game here: There are very few “I’ll” or “We’ll” in the book – it’s straight forward: “We will get the job done” – I’d be interested to hear how this works as an audible reading: for some it might at times seem unreal, but for me it was part of the appeal: things are black and white ( no pun intended given the subject matter) and the characters are straight talking: the insults and verbal sparring are not sophisticated things )and generally genital related) but again, it’s the characters on the street and on the job.
If you want a nuanced treaty that’s likely to be Booker Prize nominated this isn’t the book for you. If you want a good story, then I’d say with his second novel Lancaster is following in the footsteps of the likes of Higgins, Child, Stephen Leather, Greg Hurwitz, or Barry Eisler, and that’s pretty good company as far as I’m concerned.