An ice-in-his-veins fixer trawls Atlantic City for a missing bundle of cash in this watertight debut thriller.
Jack Delton, the hero of this novel—and, presumably, more to come—is a “ghostman," an expert at disappearing and helping others disappear. He’s a free agent with a full armory of skills that help him kill a man, cross borders, take on entirely new personalities and be smugly unimpressed with criminal overlords. But his botch of a big-money bank heist in Kuala Lumpur five years ago means he owes a favor to one of those honchos, Marcus, who’s looking for a bag of cash that disappeared with a gunman when a casino robbery went sour. The clock’s ticking: The bundle is a “federal payload” containing a packet of indelible ink set to explode in 48 hours. Jack is a superb sleuth and an entertaining explainer of the variety of ways one can torment or kill somebody (a jar of nutmeg can be terrifyingly deadly, it turns out), and Hobbs ensures he’s in a heap of trouble fast: Marcus is watching closely, and Jack is also in the cross hairs of an FBI agent and a rival criminal, the Wolf, who's guarded by Aryan Brotherhood thugs. Straight out of the gate, Hobbs has mastered the essentials of a contemporary thriller: a noirlike tone, no-nonsense prose and a hero with just enough personality to ensure he doesn’t come off as an amoral death machine. Jack loves Ovid, hates heroin and cripples his pursuers—but not so badly that they won’t have a chance to come back in a future installment. The federal payload deadline gives the plot its essential urgency, but Hobbs is even better in the Kuala Lumpur interludes—heart-stopping scenes that illustrate how small mistakes can turn catastrophic.
A smart entry into the modern thriller pantheon, at once slick and gritty.