War Hawk | James Rollins and Grant Blackwood | 2016, Pb 2017 | Orion | 368p | Review copy | Buy the book
Tucker Wayne, a former Army Ranger, and his companion Kane, a Belgian Shepherd that Tucker ‘liberated’ from the US military, are on holiday in Montana. For once, they have nowhere to be, nothing to do, the bank account still full from their last mission for Sigma, a powerful government agency. Until one day a woman from Tucker’s past, Jane, turns up at his motel with her son and she is desperate. Before she went on the run, Jane had been working in military intelligence on a heavily classified project that involved several disconnected teams, one of which included an old friend of both Jane and Tucker – Sandy. And Sandy has disappeared. But not just Sandy. Several colleagues have recently died in accidents, with nothing suspicious about their deaths except sheer coincidence. Jane is convinced that she is next on the hit list. If Tucker and Kane can’t help, then she’s as good as dead.
And so begins an exhilarating, breathless chase across America, Europe and further afield, with the distinction blurred between hunter and hunted. Tucker puts together a small group of ragged operatives, combining military and intelligence, who set out to find Sandy and clues to what it is that she was involved in. It’s not a surprise to Sandy’s friends that the young woman should leave clues behind and, once unravelled, they reveal a dark plot with origins in the early months of the Second World War in a secret complex known officially as Station X – Bletchley Park.
To say that I’m a huge fan of James Rollins’ thrillers would be such an understatement I can barely get the words out – I leap on these books the moment I can. The Tucker and Kane series might be a new one (this is the second following The Kill Switch and completely stand alone) but its origins lie firmly in the fantastic Sigma series and it retains so much of the spirit, adventure and thrill of those books, albeit with a different cast. But what a cast! Here we have the quiet, slightly damaged soul of Tucker who has been made better by his closest friend, Kane, a wonderful, clever, brave dog. The two of them make the perfect team, using signals, special equipment and, above all, empathy and trust. I love how these two are written. There are even occasional brief sections in the novel which give us Kane’s own unusual perspective. It’s not mawkish or overly sentimental – this is a team getting the job done but their affection and reliance on each other is never in doubt and they form the novel’s warm heart, the calm in the middle of the thrills and explosions.
I really enjoyed War Hawk‘s story – with all the talk of drones, it’s topical, too. The baddie’s an interesting one. He even has signs of a conscience. Not enough to not want to destroy huge swathes of the planet, of course, but deep down he still wants his daughter to like him (or to not want to kill him – much the same thing in his eyes). You’d expect great locations and you get them here. This is a novel on the move. You have to race to keep up. Although this isn’t a Sigma novel, Tucker and Kane can call on Sigma in cases of dire emergency. I really like this connection.
A thriller as well written and as exciting as this one is something that gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. I love how one chapter drives me on to read the next. I love that I am given characters to care about and here nobody seems invincible or unkillable. Most of all, though, I really enjoy the combination of thrills and warmth. This is something that James Rollins achieves with great skill and time after time. And all credit to Grant Blackwood whose writing smoothly blends with Rollins’. I loved War Hawk. The relationship between Tucker and his best friend Kane is so appealingly portrayed. Overall, another hugely satisfying adventure thriller from the thriller master.