Friday, 21 August 2015

Book Review: Henchmen (Henchmen, #1) by Eric Lahti

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Synopsis: Join a small organization of loveable bad guys: a supervillain and her henchmen. Eve, the seven foot tall, bulletproof blonde is their leader. Frank and Jean are a couple that can get into any computer or building unseen. Jacob is a rough around the edges biker type that has a deep and abiding love of guns and explosives. And Steven? Well, he’s really good at manipulating people and pretty handy to have around in a fight. As supervillainy goes, they’re just starting out. They don’t have much of a secret base. They don’t have matching uniforms. Not a one of them owns a single pair of tights. What they do have is an interest in tearing down the country and watching it burn. 

There’s just one little problem, though. No matter how tough and smart a small group may be, tearing down a country is almost impossible for five people to pull off, so they while away their time pulling small jobs and putting together as much advanced technology as they can. 

A chance encounter at a sushi bar has led them to a young woman with a terrifying secret she doesn’t even know she possesses. The Yakuza wants to use her to put pressure on a missing father. No one’s entirely certain exactly what the secret is, but it smells like a weapon and it might be just the sort of thing to help topple a nation. 

They’re done pulling small jobs. Now they’re aiming for the top – because why bother robbing jewelry stores when you can topple governments? 
Yakuza gang fights. 
Incursions into high-security, top-secret government buildings. 
Picking fake fights with losers in bars. 
A psycho ex-coworker who has some strange friends. 
And a well-dressed older gentleman who haunts dreams. 
It’s all in a day’s work for Steven…one of the world’s most dedicated and dangerous… 
HENCHMEN

Review: Well, if you have read the synopsis, you will stay around for the review. First things first, who says that synopses have to be short? The above is long but tells you all you need to know, but like most crime thrillers, you have to read the book to discover the rest.

Henchmen by Eric Lahti centres its attention around Steven, a gun for hire, though how he actually gets hired is a stroke of genius fiction. As I was reading the story it reminded me all that was best about America, but also the worst.

It does not, at any time, seek to glorify the violence in the story, which is frequent, occasionally strong, but always in context. Add in the fact that the first person narrative is so well written, that you are placed directly amongst the action. I swear I could feel bullets whizzing by my head and punches to my mid section.

Here's another reason why this book worked for me - the author has a great command of martial arts knowledge, and tells these particular scenes as a true exponent of the art of Kenpo. Styles aside, the author clearly demonstrates his knowledge of fighting and how those skills translate against the antagonists of the story.

The narrative is fast paced, but whilst the plot itself is grand in scope and detail, it's the dialogue that is the winner for me. Lines like:-

"....no one starts a gunfight over breasts."
"They do in Texas."

First person narrative like this:

We're not into graves in my family, just incinerate and toss to the breeze.

He pulls out some kind of tool that I swear is a leftover prop from Ghostbusters.

If that's not got you reaching for the 'buy' button (see below) how about this for a chapter title?

A Hot Chick, A Tough Guy and a Valkyrie Walk Into a Bar.

Beats 'Chapter 23', doesn't it?

The story never strays far from its core plot, the Henchmen are a group that individually, are as different as can be. When you read the character of Eve, you won't ever mix her up with another person. The characterisation is simply excellent here. Yes, there are quite a lot of characters, that perhaps extra readings of this book would flesh them out a bit more, but for me, Steven, Eve and the delectable Jessica are the stand out characters in this first in the series.

There's a little social commentary and the occasional political statement here and there, but it is never preachy and flows pretty flawlessly with the narrative.

The setting is Albuquerque for the most part, and although I haven't been to New Mexico (sorry, the nearest I got to was LA) I have imagined it with dust filled desert roads, a vast remote landscape, interspersed with the kind of modern buildings the government would have us call a city.

Ultimately, Henchmen is much more than a revenge story, though there is little doubt Steven's targets deserve to be iced. It is much more than a heist story, though there's great fun to be had when the group go on their hits. 

Here is the debut novel of an author that understands his audience. I wanted to be thrilled, entertained and have a chuckle along the way. Now click the link below to understand what I'm on about.