It’s been a summer for rogue agents. Jason Bourne is back at the cinema and just last week a semi-retired killer was kicking ass on my kindle in The Assassin’s Prayer. Now another ex-black-ops agent blasts into action. Carter Blake used to be part of the ultimately deniable agency Winterlong, until its dubious activities became too much for him to stomach. They parted ways and he figured his safety was assured by the incriminating secrets he’d stashed.
Carter establishes himself as an independent operative, and he’s working an industrial espionage case when it abruptly becomes obvious that Winterlong haven’t forgotten or forgiven him. The agency has a new chief exec, and his old team come gunning for him, displaying every sign of extreme prejudice…
‘The Time To Kill’ is the third book in the Carter Blake series. He’s not a cold-blooded killer, this guy, but instead specialises in finding people who try to stay hidden. Inevitably, a few of them end up dead, but this twist gives the story a different dynamic to the standard ‘Bourne Yet Again’ narrative. Carter Blake is more about smarts, planning and strategy than fist fights and car chases. As such, ‘The Time To Kill’ is more intellectually engaging than many of these thrillers – it develops the characters into credible people within the mythology of the series and it doesn’t stretch the suspension of disbelief beyond breaking point with super-human performance. Missing the first two books in the series didn’t stop me thoroughly enjoying this one – everything you need to know is fully explained.
Author Mason Cross writes crisp, pacey copy. For its genre, which typically leans towards slick but superficial novellas, this is quite a lengthy thriller with unusually well-developed characters. Cross maintains the tension by chopping between the hunter-hunted present-day narrative and flashbacks to an undercover assignment in the Middle East which went horribly wrong. We learn who betrayed Carter Blake in the past as he rattles across America towards a lethal ambush in the present – so there’s plenty of scope for cliff-hanger chapter endings and some satisfying action set pieces.
‘The Time To Kill’ hardly pushes the boundaries of the genre, but it’s polished, extremely proficient and ultimately enjoyable. I’ve added the two earlier books to my TBR stack…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Time To Kill (aka ‘Winterlong’ for the American audience) by Mason Cross is available as an ebook or paperback