The Black Hornet
What do you do when the love of your life vanishes without a trace? If you’re ex-intelligence agent James Ryker you search for the answers whatever the cost, however much blood and sacrifice it takes ...
Six months ago Lisa was taken from Ryker, and he’ll stop at nothing to find out who is responsible and why. Following a trail to Mexico, the ex-Joint Intelligence Agency asset soon finds himself in the firing line of enemies he long thought he’d left behind. Set-up for the murder of a former informant, Ryker is thrown into a crumbling jail run by The Black Hornet, the notorious leader of a Mexican drug cartel. But what connects the cartel to the informant’s murder, and to Lisa’s disappearance? And just who is the mystery American claiming he can help Ryker in his hour of need?
The Black Hornet is the second book in the bestselling James Ryker series. Part Bourne, part Reacher, it’s an explosive and action-packed thriller to rival any other.
This is another enjoyable and pacey read from Rob Sinclair. Near the end of the previous book, The Red Cobra (see review here), Carl Logan/James Ryker returns home hoping to resume his retirement as a government agent only to find his girlfriend Lisa missing. This book starts with a repeat of that chapter and then picks up six months later with Ryker in Mexico chasing leads to her disappearance.
His meeting very quickly degenerates to his acquaintance being murdered and Ryker being carted off to prison for the crime.
The second thread of the story is about a US congressman who appears to be selling arms to drug cartels in Mexico. Ryker meanwhile is becoming well acquainted with those same cartels in prison. When Maurice Powell offers to get him away from prison – the squalor and the violence – Ryker is at first sceptical and changes his mind only on the offer of new information about Lisa. But Fiona Willoughby is also trying to help him and from the quite large cast of characters, Ryker doesn’t know who, if anyone, he can trust. The reader doesn’t know either and is kept guessing. Ryker is often left wondering how the various people he comes into contact with know so much about him, and the reader is not always given the answer to these questions, which is a bit frustrating.
As we have come to expect from Rob Sinclair, there is a lot of action, a lot of violence, and a lot of thoroughly nasty characters. There is a twist at the end – it is not completely out of place, but I would have liked a few hints along the way. As soon as I knew there was a twist, I knew what it was, but that was only a few pages before we were told explicitly, and I would have liked to have gone back to find the signs that I had missed, but really there weren’t any – the one sign there was, I read as a discord in the story rather than a sign, and one other bit of “evidence” I still can’t figure out a plausible reason for the reader’s misdirection. Rob Sinclair's strength lies in writing about the locations, which seem well researched and give a good sense of backdrop.
I think the writing needs tightening up a little and I would have preferred the loose ends to have been tidied up, but this is an enjoyable read (the prison scenes were particularly vivid) and I will definitely look out for the next in the series to see how the story develops. This is the second book in the series, and I think it would help to read the first, but this can easily be read as a stand-alone book as the events in the first book aren’t relevant for this one and any background you need to know is given here.
Editorial Input & Design
As with The Red Cobra, there is a lot of exposition and too much telling rather than showing. Some of the writing is clunky. The reader is given too much information using too many words and with too much repetition of “Rkyer did this” “Ryker did that” when sentences could be combined and more judicious use of pronouns would have given a better flow. I was itching to get out my red pen and do a spot of copy-editing.
I would have asked for the loose ends to be tidied up. For example, how did so many people know so much about a person who is supposed to be off the radar? Why and how did the biggest baddie become a baddie? I wonder whether the manuscript went out to beta readers, as I think these questions would have been asked at that point and could have been ironed out before publication.
This might be an odd thing to focus on, but a few times the phrase “piss and faeces” was used, or the words were used separately. Why was this not “urine and faeces” or “piss and shit”? This is the sort of thing that bothers me as a reader, but I quite accept that I don’t get out nearly enough.
Cover: I like it.
Internal design: I read this on a Kindle. There were no problems, but some chapters started with a dropped cap (some not in the right place) and others started with a few words in small caps.
Book Clubs & Reviews
This would possibly be a book for a book club. I’m not sure there would be enough to discuss about the book alone but it could spark other conversations.
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.8 stars (11 reviewers); Amazon US readers give it 4.9 stars (16 reviewers); Goodreads readers give it 4.27 stars (37 ratings).
Buy & Author
Amazon (Kindle £1.99/$2.57; paperback £8.99/$11.99)
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Disclosure: I received a free mobi file of this book from the publisher for review as part of the blog tour, June 2017.