Once again another book is shamelessly marketed as the new Jack Reacher. Once again the book is a pretender to the throne and the author is done a disservice by the comparison created by the sales department of the publisher. Once again the marketing hype is misleading at best. If one wants to read Jack Reacher, one reaches for the latest book in the series by Lee Child. There have been many pretenders to come along to claim the Jack Reacher throne and Steve Vail penned by Noah Boyd is just the latest.
Which is not to say it is a bad book. It is pretty good as long as you take it for what it is--sheer escapist reading. It isn't Reacher and it shows. As long as you don't take it seriously or expect too much, the book works.
Steve Vail used to be an FBI agent. A very good agent who had a reputation of getting the job done no matter what and in so doing annoying the bosses. A reputation of not caring about the political repercussions and not respecting authority—especially incompetent authority. His reputation is hard to understand by those with political aspirations in the bureau as is his current occupation as a brick layer.
His unwillingness to conform is exactly what the FBI needs right now. A group known as the “Rubaco Pentad” is killing public figures that could be construed as enemies of the FBI. At the same time, “Rubaco Pentad” is blaming the FBI for the killings and extorting increasing amounts of money from the FBI who is desperate to pay the money, stop the killings, and prevent the news of either getting out via the media. The FBI needs Vail to come back and one more time to find the bad guys and put an end to the madness.
This debut novel of a planned series is fairly good. It suffers, as do many thrillers, from an over inflated sense of the grand epic. A number of characters are introduced and readers watch the events through their point of view for a chapter or two before they are discarded for one reason or another. This issue is primarily in the first third of the book and creates situations where the reader just knows the character will die—just not how.
Like many books in the thriller and mystery genres these days there is the obligatory romance between the two central characters. In this case it is between Vail and newly promoted Deputy Assistant Director Kate Bannon. Guess what? She’s hot. Smart too and is willing to risk her career to get the bad guys. Years ago Steve and Kate sort of worked together and now, thrust together under the pressures of the case, the stress, a romance begins despite the baggage they both posses. This romance, along with several other plot points, brings a very formulaic paint by the numbers feel to the book that will be screamingly obvious to seasoned mystery and thriller readers.
While the book doesn’t break new ground in the genre, it does provide solid entertainment and escapist reading. Character development is very limited as just about everyone in here are two dimensional at best. Hopefully, this issue will be addressed in future books. For now take “The Bricklayer” for what it is—sheer escapist reading using a tried and true formula where the bosses are idiots, the bad guys are clever whack jobs, and the hero is a man of honor who just might get the hot babe in the end. On those points, author Noah Boyd, a pseudonym for Paul Lindsay, a former FBI agent, delivers fully on all aspects.
William Morrow (Harper Collins Publishers)
Material provided at my request through the Amazon Vine Program.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2010