Scott Harvath is at his nadir in the opening pages of “Near Dark” and he hangs out there, drowning in guilt and self-loathing as he tries to drink himself into oblivion. Unfortunately this blue funk continues for twenty two chapters, mostly recounting events from “Backlash” the previous book. For a while I wondered why author Thor would switch genres from thriller to noir this far into the Harvath series. Thankfully our protagonist pulled himself together and set about finding out who put a hundred million dollar bounty on his head. And why?
Once the action finally begins I settle in for the kind of fast-paced action and espionage that keeps me reading. However the action is sluggish, as if it too, feels the effects of Harvath’s numerous recent hangovers. The technical aspects in this narrative are intriguing and the sometimes “fly by the seat of your pants” tactical operations are actually carefully plotted and researched for plausibility. In this episode Harvath finds himself in the unenviable position of being both “the hunted” and “the hunter”.
Much of the story is set in Norway where Scott is joined by Solvi Kolstad from Norwegian intelligence. An unusual affinity between them is quickly established and they set out to identify and find his would-be assassin. Solvi shines some much needed light into the dark corners of this almost noir novel. Together they begin a complex hunt for the assassin before he finds them.
The dark turn of recent events in Harvath’s life is reflected in the book title “Near Dark”. If you’re already a fan of the series be prepared for some surprises, one of which is the abrupt ending. It feels unnecessarily rushed and incomplete, although the segue into #20 is as smooth as a good single malt scotch whisky.
Now I have an entire year to anticipate the next chapter in Scott Harvath’s escapades. Maybe I’ll reread the whole series. So many books and so little time (sigh). Four stars.
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