Title: The Searcher
Author: Christopher Morgan Jones
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: 22 March 2016
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley
An unlikely hero dives into the chaotic madness of Russia and Georgia’s deadly covert conflict, in this rapid-fire tale of corporate espionage gone awry
The acclaimed author of The Silent Oligarch and The Jackal’s Share, Christopher Morgan Jones returns to a murky world where corporate spies and government agents battle far from the public eye. Focusing on Georgia, a mountainous republic threatened by Russia to the north, Morgan Jones carries readers deep into an ancient land of chilling compromises and foolhardy valor.
Morgan Jones’s novels center on a unique London corporate espionage firm spearheaded by Ike Hammer and Ben Webster, which follows criminal money anywhere it leads: be it Moscow or Dubai, Monaco or Kazakhstan, a bureaucrat’s pockets or a politician’s bank account. While Webster was the star of the earlier novels—investigating Russian businessmen and KGB operatives in The Silent Oligarch, Persian billionaires and Tehran terrorists in The Jackal’s Share—in The Searcher the focus shifts provocatively to Hammer, making this a perfect starting point for old fans and new readers alike.
Journeying to Georgia for the funeral of a friend, a journalist who inexplicably committed suicide after publishing the exposé of a lifetime, Webster mysteriously disappears. As the country rumbles ominously with civil strife and Russian aggression, Hammer rushes to Tbilisi to track down his missing friend. Once in Georgia, Hammer is forced to confront the country’s tragic chaos: civilians bombed either by cruel Russian spies or by deceitful Georgian soldiers; violent riots instigated by amoral oligarchs or government saboteurs; double and even triple agents who play all sides against each other at once. Threatened by enemies he cannot name and “friends” he cannot trust, Hammer rushes north—into the lawless mountains bordering Russia itself—to discover the true fate of his friend and Georgia’s future.
I requested The Searcher on NetGalley because the blurb sounded really interesting. The idea of a novel focusing on corporate espionage and forensic accounting sounded like something I would really enjoy, so I was excited when Penguin Press accepted by request. Having finished the book, I still don’t really know what to think about it. It wasn’t what I expected when I read the blurb and it’s not quite the same style of book I usually read. All I know is that I really enjoyed the book.
The Searcher is Christopher Morgan Jones’ third novel featuring private investigators Ben Webster and Ike Hammer. In a step away from the previous novels which centred on Webster, The Searcher follows Hammer as he investigates the disappearance of his former partner and friend, Webster, in the country of Georgia. The closer Hammer gets to the truth, the more he starts to believe that Webster’s disappearance may have something to do with the recent bombing by Russia that has torn Georgia apart.
I think there are two main reasons that I really enjoyed this book. The first is the characters, in particular the main character Ike Hammer. Most of the books in the genre focus on macho men and women who outsmart everyone around them, but that is not what Hammer is like. I really enjoyed the fact that Hammer felt like a regular person who was over his head and forced into becoming a hero by circumstance. I really liked that Hammer acted in the same ways that regular people would when confronted with danger, like trying to pay his way out of trouble, and that’s not something that I have ever really seen anyone else do as believably as Jones does.
The second is the setting. One of the things that really makes a book stand out to me is an interesting and different setting. The Searcher fits that bill as it is set in the country of Georgia which is not something I can remember reading about in other books. Also, Jones is really good at giving short and simple, but still powerful, descriptions of places to the point where it really felt like I was on the streets of Tbilisi with Hammer.
I did have a bit of trouble with getting into the book at the start. This was partly to do with the fact that the chapters kept jumping back and forwards in time at the beginning. The other reason was that I think the book follows pretty closely from the previous book. I feel a little bit more information about who was who and what was going on would have been nice because at the start it felt like I had walked into a movie halfway through. It took me a while to get into the book, but once I felt like I understood what was going on, I was really engaged with it and didn’t want to put it down.
All in all, The Searcher is a great read. It has a little bit for everyone to enjoy. There’s a well-written and relatively fast-paced story, an interesting and unique setting, mystery, action and adventure. I am really interested to see what Jones does to follow this up because The Searcher does end on a bit of a cliffhanger.
Worth a read? If you enjoy fast-paced thrillers with intriguing settings and main characters that buck the ‘macho man’ trend, then there is a good chance you will enjoy The Searcher. It’s definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoys a good thriller.