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'The Hunted', James Phelan

“You’ll soon find, no matter how prepared you are, things go upside-down, fast.”

Fresh from the hunt for a group of terrorists set on assassinating the US Vice President, which provided the adrenaline-fuelled plot line for the first Jed Walker novel, ‘The Spy’ (Hachette, 2013), James Phelan’s latest creation - a cross between Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and David Rollins’ Vin Cooper, with just a hint of David Morrell’s John Rambo to add gore to the mix - is back, and has been thrown straight into the thick of things.

Someone is targeting the members of Seal Team Six, wiping them out one after the other, in an attempt to cover up a terrorist atrocity aimed at the very heart of the US. Details are painfully thin on the ground though, forcing Walker to fight off back-ops specialists, redneck drug gangs, and an assortment of more-or-less well-meaning law enforcement agencies as he attempts to track down the last remaining member of the team, and take him into protective custody in the hope that between them they can shed some light on things before they go to hell in a hand basket.

‘The Hunted’ only has two speeds - unrelenting, and finished, as Walker’s investigation takes him, at breakneck speeds, from Washington to England, then into the treacherous waters of the Alabama swamplands, and the Arkansas hills. The constant need for speed doesn’t mean that Phelan skimps on detail though - far from it. Here is an author who seems almost preternaturally disposed to the alphabet-soup that is the modern US justice system, flitting effortlessly from the FBI to the CIA, NCIS to the DOJ and the OSI, while giving each just enough detail and context to each to make them believable and part of an intentionally semi-coherent whole. Nor does he skimp on his geographic detail, be it at the Navy Yard in DC, the SAS training grounds in Hereford, or the close-knit communities that make up the Ozarks. Phelan has done his research, and it is reflected in his tight plot lines, and in the smooth flow of his prose.

His knowledge base is all the more remarkable when you consider that James Phelan is an Australian, based in Melbourne. But that shouldn’t give US readers pause, especially when they remember that the authors his work is most reminiscent of are all, oddly enough, non-Americans - Lee Child is an Englishman, David Rollins an Australian, and David Morrell a Canadian. There really is an argument that those who look in on us from outside know us best, and if the early indication from the popularity of ‘The Spy’ are anything to go by, US readers look ready to take Phelan to their hearts every bit as much as they did his predecessors. They won’t regret it - ‘The Hunted’ delivers on its promises, just as Jed Walker delivers on his. This series goes from strength to strength, and all the signs are there to suggest that there are many more well-written, action-packed instalments to come.

'The Hunted' by James Phelan will be published in trade paperback by Hachette on 27 January 2015.

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