Breathe: A Fast Paced Action Packed Thriller (The Meat Puppet Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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The setting is well chosen to underline this bleakness. A British city in winter, the skies dark, the streets choked with snow. The cold and wet and misery seeps into everything and everyone. But especially into the main characters. Sebastian is ex-army, a frustrated warrior who's drifted into borderline criminality, and someone who is physically and temperamentally unable to run. His courage and essential decency are among the few signs of hope in the book, and they shine all the brighter against the dark background. Isobel is trapped by her past, desperate to be free, desperate to be a better person than she has become. It is their uneasy alliance that drives the story along.
But they face a worse enemy than they realise. 'Mr Punch' as Isobel calls him is almost supernatural in his abilities and utterly implacable. He turns people into 'meat puppets', totally under his control, to the point that they will kill or die on his orders.
However, Mr Punch is a hollow man. He does what he does not for wealth or even for power but simply because that's what he does. His evil is essentially pointless. The sense of despair that pervades the story comes from him.
I can't really say that I enjoyed this book. I respect the craftsmanship, I give credit to the author's undeniable ability (hence four stars), but it wasn't pleasant reading. Of course, it is the first of a trilogy, and the ending leaves it well placed to continue. Perhaps by the final conclusion there will be some light and hope. But I suspect that there will be a lot of snow and misery to wade through first.
I enjoyed the play between broader narrative brush-strokes, allowing my imagination to fire, and intricate details for checkable facts. Admittedly; at times, I wondered if the intricacy of the street directions was required; now in retrospect I see how these detailed sections were tools with relate-able substance used to ebb and buoy the pace of the narrative. It certainly didn't distract from the storyline.
My analytic and sceptical mind usually finds me either a step ahead of the storyline with poorly seeded clues - or thrown an eight-ball with a late-introduced antagonist; 'Breathe' is constructed in a way that kept me guessing and interested - and then didn't disappoint when the antagonist is revealed.
The text on the cover of 'Breathe' promises this to be the first in a trilogy 'The Meat Puppets'. I'll be adding David Ince to my author alert list.
Sebastian is a nice guy with a job delivering unknown cargo. Isobel is a nurse that has been manipulated for years by the mysterious criminal overlord, Mr Punch. When Sebastian gives her a ride, their future collides in an explosion of action, intrigue and bleakness. May the best man win...
Tightly plotted, so fast that it will leave you completely - yes, I'm going to say it - breathless, and with well-drawn characters taken to the extremes of the human condition, this is a very good, and very different, take on the crime thriller. I look forward to reading more in the series.
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.