The first two volumes from one the most promising new voices in Thriller writing
Jason Pinter’s The Mark introduces us to rookie reporter Henry Parker, as he starts his dream job at the fictitious New York Gazette (based on, I assume, the New York Times). Sent on a simple assignment by his idol and new mentor – Jack O’Donnell – Parker finds himself in a fatal altercation after trying to help a couple, only to result in the death of what turns out to be a New York cop. What follows is his harrowing journey to discover just what he’s got himself involved in, and why so many people seem to want to put a bullet in him. His dash for freedom introduces him to Amanda Davies, who become tied up with Parker’s quest for redemption, not to mention something of a love interest.
The Guilty picks up pretty much where The Mark left off, with Parker now back at the Gazette and still working as a journalist, his reputation more-or-less intact. Then people start dying. A sniper is on the loose, taking the lives of seemingly innocent people. Parker’s nose for a good story sets him on a collision course with the sniper, who has a deep interest in vintage weaponry and a seemingly all-consuming interest in the Wild West… Parker’s investigation into the killer’s motives put his friends and loved-ones in harm’s way, and it becomes a race against time as Parker (with the help of O’Donnell again) tries to help prevent each new murder. All this, while his journalistic nemesis Paulina Cole takes shots at him from her rival newspaper, the New York Dispatch.
Pinter’s writing style is superb throughout both of these novels. His prose are extremely tight, pulling you along with the characters, as he ratchets up the tension and excitement – dangling just enough information to keep you hooked. There is no doubt that the word “thriller” is most apt in these two instances. All of Pinter’s characters are realistic, colourful (but still believable), and well-constructed – from the slightly damaged Amanda, to Jack O’Donnell (the classic, whisky-soaked and cynical old journalist, who comes to consider Parker as a surrogate son). You certainly come to care about the characters – not least because of the sheer amount of abuse Parker is subjected to during both of the novels.
Having a journalist as a main protagonist is a great change from the standard cop or PI approaches (not that these are bad, mind you); it allows Pinter to take his characters in a new direction and gives the reader a new perspective of what can happen when such news-worthy crimes occur. It’s also allowed Pinter to discuss (perhaps) his opinion of the state of journalism in America – as Paulina Cole writes about Parker, in The Mark, journalists are increasingly becoming the story, with almost the same level of celebrity as those they write about, diminishing the respectability and quality of journalism. I thought this was an interesting touch, for the background of the novel.
If I had to locate his style and skill within the Thriller genre, I would say he is a mixture of James Patterson’s better qualities (pacing, especially) and John Sandford’s quality and plotting. My one criticism is related: like Patterson, Pinter’s style of writing relationships can be a little too sugary or melodramatic – this is especially the case for Henry and Amanda’s relationship in The Guilty. It’s a minor gripe, but it’s still valid.
Truly one of the best new writers in the genre. Pinter should enjoy a long and successful career. If you like your thrillers fast-paced, exciting and expertly executed, The Mark and The Guilty could not come more highly recommended. Addictive reading.
(The Mark is out now, and The Guilty will be released on December 12th)
For fans of: Brett Battles, David Baldacci, John Sandford, James Patterson, Alex Berenson, Jack Kerley, Lee Child, Marcus Sakey
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