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• The Matt Hilton Cut and Run (Hachette, $39.99, pbk) is a real page-turner and for all the right reasons. In some ways the end could not come fast enough. But then, it was difficult to want the book to end because it was such a good read.
The hero, Joe Hunter, is not the run-of-the-mill hero that has featured in most thrillers this year. He is flawed in that he has been someone security forces have turned to when they wanted someone killed. His nemesis is Luck Rickard, a killer who stole his identity and committed a vicious double murder. Rickard, a gun for hire, is determined to kill everyone near and dear to Hunter in revenge for a botched assassination years ago in South America.
Coincidently, Rickard had surgery to look like Hunter - a similar plot device to a recently reviewed book by James Patterson, in which the villain had plastic surgery to look like an FBI agent.
Hilton's writing is refreshing. It must be hard to write a thriller that stands out, given the competition. His phrasing is good, the pace of the book is unrelenting and even the happy ending is kept to a minimum, about four sentences.
• Clive Cussler is another of the writers with a factory of helpers which push out a thriller a month, it seems. This time, he has collaborated with Grant Blackwood in Lost Empire (Penguin, $39, pbk). Again, this is a good read, albeit much easier on the nerves than Hilton's book.
A seriously rich couple - Sam and Remi Fargo - come across a relic belonging to a long-lost Confederate ship while they are diving off the coast of Tanzania. Cussler and Blackwood draw together the strands of a mystery that stretches back to the founding of Mexico while encompassing some quite believable suggestions about the shipping of slaves from the west coast of Africa.
• Dennis Lehane delivers the sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone in his new thriller - Moonlight Mile (Hachette, $39.99, pbk).
Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from a Boston suburb in 1997. Now, she is 16 and has vanished again. Her aunt comes knocking on the door of investigator Patrick Kenzie, fearing the worst.
Kenzie has some demons to erase in this gritty story which involves some nasty characters. Drug dealing and taking is described as a natural way of life for a section of Boston's blue-collar streets. Sudden and violent death is just a consequence to be avoided if possible, but accepted if there is no alternative.
• The Templar's Code by C.M. Palov (Penguin, $40, pbk), will whet the appetites of conspiracy theorists who believe the secret order held the secret of the universe within their ranks as they were first welcomed then despised by kings and popes.
No new theories emerge from the book and, in fact, the first few chapters read almost exactly like Palov's Stones of Fire, released last year. If Stones of Fire was on your reading list last year, The Templar's Code is not worth the money. But if you have not read that book, then the tale of the Emerald Tablet will be entertaining.
Only the most sheltered of readers would not be aware that Washington DC was theoretically designed by members of the Masonic Lodge, with esoteric symbols placed strategically throughout the city. Palov belabours the point in this book. The timing of how the main characters dash from Europe to the United Kingdom and the United States is a bit of a stretch. Otherwise, Palov continues the development of his main character, Caedmon Aisquith, and his partner, Edie Miller.
• Dene Mackenzie is a Dunedin writer.