Paul E Hardisty’s Absolution takes us back to 1997, when hero Clay Straker has just testified about the horrors of South African apartheid to Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In doing so, he’s made enemies who want him dead.
He’s not the only one, it seems. Clay’s former girlfriend, Rania, is devastated by the deaths of her husband and small son. Even worse, someone has framed her for their murders.
Travelling to Egypt to try to discover the truth, she asks Clay for help. He really wants to oblige, but assassins lurk at every port and airstrip as he crosses Africa to join her. Clay needs all his cash, firepower and cunning to survive.
This crime mystery shifts swiftly into an action thriller
Although beginning as a crime mystery with the disappearance and killing of Rania’s family, Absolution is an action thriller above all. Each conflict and slaughter is described in gory, bone-crushing detail. Every weapon is itemised. Clay is a man’s man: a connoisseur of guns, hard-nosed and heavy-drinking, not afraid of a scrap. Despite the scars of war, he is amazingly attractive to women. Here, Hardisty misses a trick: we never find out what it is about this tough mercenary that appeals so much to the opposite sex. Perhaps it’s simply Clay’s steadfastness. He stands by his friends, male or female, when all around are swayed by money. In a tale of government and corporate corruption, Clay is one of the few who cannot be bought.
The story moves at a fair clip, with plenty of suspense as the action switches between Rania’s investigations in murky Cairo and Clay’s desperate journey to reach her. Although no travelogue, the places through which Clay passes are well described: the heat, dust and dangers of African warzones and the cramped, polluted metropolis of Cairo. The desert dénouement presents a picturesque, as well as a tragic, scene. Hardisty writes very well and holds attention throughout. Satisfyingly, the book ends on an ambivalent note. Will Clay’s adventures continue?
If you love a fast-paced story with a sense of place, try The Vodka Trail. When glamorous Kat White travels to the former Soviet Union in an attempt to recover her family vodka business, she doesn’t realise her oldest enemy will hold her life in his hands…