3 out of 4 stars
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Lord Alex Hawke specializes in counterintelligence and hostage rescues. When his son goes missing after a tragic accident on a ski lift in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Hawke puts all of his plentiful resources to work to recover his son. At roughly the same time, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, escapes an assassination attempt and goes into hiding. Putin pulls together his own resources to facilitate his return to power in Russia.
As the tenth book in the Alex Hawke series, Overkill by Ted Bell was surprisingly easy to follow. Clearly, the characters had significant history from the other books. Bell masterfully included just enough of the right information to be able to convey that history without downloading the entire series to a new reader. Unfortunately, the number of characters that appeared caused many of them to feel somewhat shallow to me as a first-time reader. I suspect followers of the Alex Hawke series would feel rather differently about those characters due to the history that developed in the other novels.
Since this is a well-established series, I checked out some of the reviews on other books before reading this one. Many of the reviews of this series were incredibly flattering of Hawke in other books. As I started this book, however, I was sorely disappointed. Hawke felt one-dimensional, lost, and frankly not very easy to like for much of the book. Fortunately, Hawke showed some significant growth throughout the book. By persevering, I finally saw the drive and sense of boldness that makes Hawke such a great hero. Taken together with how Bell set up his novel, I can really appreciate his willingness to allow his hero to falter. The author trusts his readers to root for the character and persevere to see him overcome these struggles.
Bell also has a great sense of how to weave together a mystery. He reveals just enough details at exactly the right time to be able to keep readers engaged without giving away the ending. His method of storytelling has a sense of the theater about it. Much like a well-written screenplay cuts the scene before revealing all of the details, Bell reveals just a few tidbits in one scene and cuts away. Later, he allows the other characters to discover something important from that event in another scene. This sort of engaging storytelling combined with the short chapters turned a long book into an engaging, quick read.
Readers that enjoy high-action thrillers or spy novels are likely to enjoy Overkill. If you want to see strong female characters in action, this is not a great choice. The few female characters that do appear felt weak or like an afterthought. Had Hawke been easier to like throughout the book, my rating on this book would have been better. Bell has a style of writing that uses many incomplete sentences, but they were clearly stylistic instead of errors. With that in mind, I otherwise found this book to be well-edited. Overall, I give this book 3 out of 4 stars and look forward to checking out other books in this series.
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