Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Mystery Review: 'The Last Exile' by E V Seymour

This has quite a bitty opening, as the author tries to squeeze in a lot of backstory as well as a dramatic first chapter. Inevitably there’s a lot of jumping about as a result. However, things soon settle down and it’s into the main plotline. The main character, Paul Tallis, a former cop with obligatory tricky past and now down on his luck, is recruited for a secretive undercover job - track down four criminals recently released from prison and inadvertantly not deported back to their home countries afterwards. The four cases are tackled one after the other, an unusual approach for a book like this, and everything gradually becomes more complicated as Paul realises things are not quite as they seem.

I rather enjoyed this. Each individual storyette is solved relatively easily, but there’s enough going on in the background to make this an absorbing read. The slow build of tension and the gradual revelations of back-scene machinations make for a solidly pacy story. Paul is an interesting character, with a past which is intriguing while avoiding the usual hackneyed stereotypes (he’s not an alcoholic, reformed or otherwise, he doesn’t have a broken marriage and he’s not a cynical, world-weary type). He’s intelligent and physically fit without being a superhero, and his decisions are generally sensible ones, albeit slightly naive. Perhaps he’s a little too unrealistically good, in the moral sense. The minor characters are believable, too. I particularly liked the chainsmoking cop. The writing style is nicely unobtrusive, and works very well, and it was good that not every tricky situation was resolved with a shootout.

The story builds to the inevitable dramatic climax, and the usual whirlpool of double-crossing and trying to work out just who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in all this. I have to say that this wasn’t entirely convincing, and the big reveal at the end was just too easy. There was also a bit too much political soapboxing over the last few chapters for my taste. Yes, we get it, these are Very Bad People. But despite a few minor flaws, I found this an enjoyable read which kept me turning the pages. Four stars.

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