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Posted on 9 Apr 2019 in Crime Scene, Fiction |

LEE GOLDBERG Killer Thriller. Reviewed by Lou Mentor

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This second book in Ian Ludlow action series by Lee Goldberg takes us deep into a global conspiracy, never skipping any opportunity for cheap kills, expensive thrills and slapstick laughs along the way.

Following on from True Fiction, Ian Ludlow once again stars as the unlikely protagonist in Goldberg’s deftly plotted Killer Thriller. A New York Times bestselling author whose fictional plots have a weird tendency of coming true, Ian is the very human counterpoint to his leading man, Clint Straker – a freelance spy who is the epitome of fighter cool. Ludlow’s creation is everything he himself is not: muscular, smooth, charismatic. At a book launch Ian is asked how he writes the character of Clint Straker. His answer?

‘I imagine the man I wish I was, living the life of adventure I wish I had.’

That answer was only half-true. He wanted to be as self-confident, resourceful and attractive to women as Straker was but he didn’t want to face the danger, violence, or the fate-of-the-world responsibility that his hero regularly took in his stride.

Ludlow’s sassy sidekick, Margo French, returns to his life determined to overcome the PTSD she’s suffering from as a result of their adventures in True Fiction. To distract herself from her emotional problems she wants Ian to hire her as his researcher. Or so she says … Margo has plenty of secrets to reveal, including coveted fighting skills that involve her resourceful use of a dildo and, later, a market-stall fish as combat weapons.

Together they share the limelight with a host of influential and not-so-influential movers and shakers: politicians, CIA operatives, Chinese assassins, Syrian rebels, Corsican smugglers, movie stars and a Chinese billionaire called Wang Kang, who is introduced with all the panache the genre is famous for:

… Wang stood, his back to them, taking in the massive view to the north of Victor Harbor, the Kowloon Peninsula, and the territories beyond, as if he owned it all. It was possible that he did. At least four of the massive skyscrapers growing like weeds across Kowloon carried his corporate logo.

Wang Kang is financing the feature film Straker, a screen adaptation of Ludlow’s bestselling novel Death Benefits, to be filmed on location in Hong Kong. Ludlow is joined by Margo as he heads to Hong Kong for publicity shots for the film. The farce of having his bestselling novel turned into a Hollywood blockbuster is magnified by the petty gripes of movie-making, and Ludlow does his best to avoid confrontation with the colossal egos and superficiality of the director and leading man. Meanwhile, Wang Kang has been whisked away in a Hollywood-style, action-packed abduction (which features a bullet-shooting pen and a rooftop helicopter). But Ludlow is oblivious to all of this, and blissfully unaware that since he logged in to his hotel wi-fi to read over his research report for his next spy novel, Chinese spies have targeted him and Margo for 24-hour surveillance on suspicion of espionage.

Aliases are as commonplace as the wonderfully evil and unsympathetic bad guys – of whom there are many. Goldberg writes his characters with gluttonous efficiency, as though they’ve been startled onto the page and allowed an action-packed survival spree before their imminent destruction. Luckily the cast is huge; with a body count this high all players are needed. Loyalties run skin-deep only, with trysts between spies embarked upon mercilessly for purely hedonistic pleasure:

He rose to his feet and took a moment to openly admire her. She was in a tank top and tight jeans that accentuated her lean, perfectly muscled body. He knew from experience how strong and flexible she was. Last night she’d used his erection like a gymnast on a set of parallel bars. His groin still ached …

The action flits speedily between California, Washington, Hong Kong, Iskenderun, Port Ouest and a Chinese ghost city called Ordos hidden deep in China’s Inner Mongolia. Goldberg uses succinct, yet deliciously tactile language to set his scenes:

The Cutting Board was a dimly lit wood-paneled steak house with booths upholstered in red leather. The air in the restaurant was stagnant and heavy with the smell of cigars, garlic, butter, and burning beef. The ambience was so masculine that infertile men could increase their sperm count just by walking in the door …

Things come to a head in Hong Kong when Ian and Margo narrowly escape a sniper’s bullet that instead kills a journalist-informer they have met with. As Ian becomes increasingly aware of his dire predicament, he realises that he is not just suffering from some sort of paranoid delusion and that he has genuinely become embroiled in a Big-Brother-style Chinese government plot for global dominance. CIA operatives come on board to assist Ian and Margo when they find themselves in very real danger, but ultimately it is up to Ian and his ever-fertile imagination to escape an unholy fate. He uncovers a terrible plot by the Chinese government to assassinate the president of the United States and hatches an audacious plan to save him. The impending endgame launches Ian and Margo into a dramatic high-speed car chase of legendary execution.

This page-turning extravaganza will keep you hooked, guessing, and laughing till the last, when the intertwined plotlines finally come together with a satisfying crunch, like the squelch of a bug underfoot.

Lee Goldberg Killer Thriller Thomas and Mercer 2019 PB 288pp $29.99

Lou Mentor is a screenwriter and script editor, and co-writer of the feature film Pimped (watch the trailer here). You can connect with her on Twitter @LouMentor101.

You can buy Killer Thriller from Abbey’s at a 10% discount by quoting the promotion code NEWTOWNREVIEW here or you can buy it from Booktopia here.

To see if it is available from Newtown Library, click here.