Well-known for his Payne and Jones mystery thrillers, Chris Kuzneski has made a leap in 2013. With a move to Headline, Kuzneski’s The Hunters promises wonderful new things for the author and us. The novel is a pageturning, thrill-a-minute, edge-of-the-seat adventure, packed with great characters and full of potential. I haven’t read anything by Kuzneski before which, after reading The Hunters, is a state of affairs I will put right.
The thriller is built around a group of individuals, all expert in different areas – military strategy, firearms and smart shooting, languages and history, espionage and burglary, computers and codes – and assembled by a mysterious billionaire who may or may not be quite who he says he is. After an exciting set of chapters in which we, and the billionaire, become impressed by the individuals at work, the team are given their first assignment. There is nothing simple about their task – the discovery and retrieval of a great treasure that was smuggled out of Romania on a train during the First World War, becoming ensnared in another crisis of the day, the Russian Revolution and the fall of the Tsar.
It is soon clear that another agency also seeks the treasure and not necessarily for the same reason. The Black Robes will stop at nothing to claim it for themselves. For them there is much more at stake than gold and jewels. And then there’s the Russian police. They watch everything, working in their own way closer to the goal.
The adventure takes us across Russia and Romania, into the cold lands, populated by people with warm hearts. Quite apart from the excellent and thrilling story, and the magnificent setting, it is the characters that makes The Hunters such a success, promising much for the series. Cobb, McNutt, Sarah, Jasmine and Garcia are a lot of fun to get to know. They each have strong individual personalities while some of the lines that McNutt comes out with are so funny you’ll be laughing as you grab on to the arms of your chair as the Black Robes do their worst. But it’s not just our group of heroes who are so appealing. Arguably, the strongest characters are the Russian police officers. I don’t want to give anything away so you’ll have to read it to discover them for yourselves. The baddies are suitably despicable and well drawn.
I’d hate to call The Hunters an old-fashioned adventure story but somehow that’s how it feels. There are no gimmicks just great action, a fine plot, characters you care about, a striking setting and excellent writing. It has provided the perfect start to the reading year and is a thriller that will be hard to beat. I have every expectation that this will become a series that I’ll love just as much as Any McDermott’s Eddie and Nina thrillers and you can’t ask more than that.