Quick Review: THE TIME TO KILL by Mason Cross (Orion)

CrossM-3-TheTimeToKillUKCarter Blake’s previous employer cleans house…

It’s been five years since Carter Blake parted ways with top-secret government operation Winterlong. They brokered a deal at the time: he’d keep quiet about what they were doing, and in return he’d be left alone.

But news that one of Blake’s old allies, a man who agreed the same deal, is dead means only one thing — something has changed and Winterlong is coming for him.

Emma Faraday, newly appointed head of the secret unit, is determined to tie up loose ends. And Blake is a very loose end. He’s been evading them for years, but finally they’ve picked up his trace. Blake may be the best there is at tracking down people who don’t want to be found, but Winterlong taught him everything he knows. If there’s anyone who can find him — and kill him — it’s them.

It’s time for Carter Blake to up his game.

After two superb novels featuring Carter Blake, Cross has him clashing with the organization that helped train him to become the near-perfect, deadly operative he has become. Another fantastic novel, it shows us some key moments of Blake’s past, and also his determination and strategic genius.

crossm-cb3-winterlongusThe shocking events at the end of The Samaritan put Blake back onto the radar of his former employer, Winterlong. Now they want him dead, as they systematically clean house. There is a new head in charge of the organization, still navigating the internal quirks and loyalties. Blake, who has been diligently trying to keep a low profile, now catapulted into the news by the events in the first two novels, has been designated a threat. It is a testament to the paranoia that characterizes so much of the black ops world that this happens, because for all intents and purposes, he’s doing nothing that suggests he wants to bring down Winterlong.

Blake starts on a relatively straightforward corporate espionage case, hunting down a wayward employee suspected of stealing a tech company’s IP, with the intention of passing it on to either a new employer or just selling it to a competitor. Nearing the end of this case, Blake’s former employers catch up with him, and events spiral quickly out of control… Winter has fallen, and with equally-competent killers on his tail, Blake must draw on all of his reserves, cunning and endurance to devise a way of getting out of this alive.

Cross’s writing and plotting is once again superb. In fact, all of the praise I had for the first two books is valid here: the characters are well-drawn, realistic and do not come across as stock or cliche. The action is plentiful, but restrained (there aren’t any ridiculous, 1980s-action-movie style set pieces). The final confrontation is very well handled and written. A couple of characters who appeared in books one and two reappear, but not in a way that would force you to have read those in order to follow the events in this novel. (I just strongly recommend you do read them, because they’re excellent.)

If you haven’t tried this series, yet, then I highly recommend you pick up The Killing Season as soon as possible. This is easily among my top five thriller series. It puts me in mind of the style and feel of the Daniel Craig Bond movies and the Jason Bourne movies — they don’t share specifics, but I think if you’re a fan of those movie franchises, then you’ll probably really like the Carter Blake novels. It should also appeal to fans of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Another gripping thriller. Very highly recommended.

*

Also on CR: Review of The Killing Season and The Samaritan

Mason Cross‘s The Time to Kill is out now in the UK, published by Orion. The novel will be published February 2017 in the US by Pegasus, as Winterlong (cover above).

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