Earlier this year Chris Ewan’s first stand alone thriller Safe House became a runaway success, dominating the Kindle charts for months, and garnering rave reviews from critics and readers alike for its driving pace and twisty narrative. So I must admit to having high expectations for Dead Line after being hooked by Safe House. Whilst the setting and subject matter are very different Dead Line once again showcases Ewan’s talent for spinning a story which grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let up.
Daniel Trent is a hostage negotiation specialist, experienced, highly skilled and absolutely unflappable. So when his fiancée Aimee disappears he has no intention of involving the police. Because Daniel is certain that Aimee has been abducted and he knows who took her from that stretch of winding, mountain road high above Marseilles; Jerome Moreau, a well set up gangster with his fingers in many dirty deals. The plan is simple, grab Moreau and make him talk.
But somebody else gets there first. Swooping in and snatching Moreau from under his nose with well oiled precision which suggests that this team of kidnappers are at the top of their game. Daniel is adaptable though, he has no choice but to be, and he finds himself working with Moreau’s beautiful, ballet dancer wife and his feckless son, pulling out all the stops to secure Moreau’s release, needing him alive if he’s ever going to get Aimee back. Daniel is an emotional wreck though, swinging between hope and despair, trying not to let his ultimate motive show through his professional facade, while Moreau’s right-hand man picks away at him, sensing that Daniel might not be quite what he seems.
Meanwhile somebody is watching Daniel very closely, hidden in the shadows, exploiting his compromised state to monitor his movements for some obscure reason, and as the situation within the Moreau household becomes more fraught, with secrets and lies bubbling up through the cracks, demands being made and threats uttered, Daniel will have to use every trick in his arsenal to free Moreau before the kidnappers do something everyone will regret.
Dead Line has all the ingredients for a smash hit poolside thriller, the exotic location, pungently evoked, the steely lead man with a soft core, gangsters, henchmen and a trophy wife with something to hide. It’s a more glamorous book than Safe House, has a cinematic scope which makes for very easy reading, and enough twists and turns to ensure your heartbeat doesn’t have a chance to settle down until the final, breath taking pages. I literally could not stop reading – even when I was cooking dinner it was in my free hand – and writing this compelling is a rare thing, even in the crime genre. It’s more than just crash bang wallop though. Ewan is a technically accomplished writer; his prose is downright silky, his characters memorable and original, and he invests this action packed story with a genuine emotional weight which will leave you feeling wrung out.
With Dead Line Chris Ewan has gone from ‘must-watch’ author to top flight thriller writer. Make room in your suitcase for this one.