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by Matt Hilton
Hodder & Stoughton, February 2012
416 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1444712683

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I've followed Matt Hilton's Joe Hunter series almost from the start and have reviewed everything from the second book onwards, so reading back through my earlier observations in the context of his latest offering proved interesting. I will freely admit to starting almost every one wondering when the books will finally take a dive off a cliff to land in a crumpled heap at the bottom, but each time Hilton manages to pleasantly surprise me and this book was no exception.

NO GOING BACK is a simpler narrative than many of the earlier books and sees Hunter going up against a gang of kidnappers who have abducted two girls on a road trip across Arizona. Hunter is hired by the wealthy father of one of the girls when his daughter fails to check in with him by phone. The police aren't interested as the girls have only been off the radar for a couple of days but Hunter soon reaches a different conclusion when he discovers that the gas station where the girls were last seen has also been the site of a vicious murder of a young family. His suspicions are confirmed when he learns that the body of a girl who had accompanied the family was not found in their burnt-out car. And these aren't the only disappearances of women in the area.

Hunter is, as ever, pitted against opponents with unusual physical characteristics and there is a Terminator-like quality to his encounters with one of the kidnappers where the man just keeps on coming, no matter what is thrown against him. Once again, Hilton manages to carefully tread a very fine tightrope in his characterization of the villains, but in the context of the badlands of the Arizona desert, the Logan family hardly seems out of place, whereas in another setting they would have been far more questionable.

Hunter spends less time in introspection on this occasion, which is a welcome departure from recent books, and unusually apart from a brief appearance of his friend 'Rink' Rington, Hunter is mostly operating alone, but the book proved to be none the worst for this, and the appearance of unexpected allies showed a good use of the supporting cast.

On a couple of occasions I've criticized Hilton for the way he writes women, but in NO GOING BACK he has considerably raised his game in this respect. The two kidnapped girls, Jay and Nicole, rise far above the cardboard cutout women that have previously surrounded Hunter. They come over as strong, believable women standing head and shoulders above Hilton's other female creations.

The action sequences were as tightly written as ever and never descend into the gratuitous gore that stains the pages of far too many thrillers. It's good to see Hilton staying well on top of a difficult game. I hope he can keep it up and my faith in his abilities is growing, rather than diminishing.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, February 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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