Title: Saint Death
Author: Mark Dawson
Publication Date: 4 January 2014
John Milton has been off the grid for six months. He surfaces in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and immediately finds himself drawn into a vicious battle with the narco-gangs that control the borderlands.
He saves the life of an idealistic young journalist who has been targeted for execution. The only way to keep her safe is to smuggle her into Texas. Working with the only untouchable cops in the city, and a bounty hunter whose motives are unclear, Milton must keep her safe until the crossing can be made.
But when the man looking for her is the legendary assassin Santa Muerta – Saint Death – that’s a lot easier said than done.
I was looking forward to reading Saint Death because I enjoyed the previous book in the series and because there is always something about the Mexican drug cartels that always interests me. Some of my favourite books from my favourite authors have been about the drug cartels and I was hoping that Saint Death would join that list.
Saint Death is the second novel in Mark Dawson’s thriller series featuring ex-assassin and drifter John Milton. Six months after the end of the previous novel, The Cleaner, Milton is working as a cook in a low end restaurant and trying to make amends for his previous life as a government assassin. The opportunity arises when drug cartel assassins storm his restaurant, looking to silence a young journalist. Milton takes it upon himself to save the journalist from the cartel and smuggle her across the border to safety.
The book ended up being a really quick and action packed read, but there was just something lacking for me. The general idea of the story was interesting, but it was just too straight forward for me. The best thing about the mystery and thriller genre for me is the guessing what is going to happen next and how the story will end, but there was no chance to do that in this book because there was no mystery at all. To me, it felt a bit like rereading a book because I pretty much already knew what was going to happen more or less and that limited my enjoyment of the story to an extent.
Having said that, the book is still a pretty good read. There’s something about the Mexican drug cartels that have always fascinated me and Saint Death had an interesting take on that. There was a lot more action than I was expecting considering the previous novel which was a bonus and it has a lot of short and sharp chapters that keep the book ticking over pretty quickly. I also liked that even though it is a separate book it still tied in that element of Group 15 hunting Milton down from the previous book, although I feel it happened a little too quickly and could have been dragged out a bit longer.
One of the best things about Dawson’s writing is that the characters feel pretty realistic, at least to me, and therefore I find them to be more relatable than some other authors in the genre. Milton’s guilt about his previous life as an assassin and his desire to make amends for all the bad things he has done is such a simple backstory, but it is quite different and I find it really interesting and engaging. I also found the whole part of the story surrounding Anna to be intriguing and I am looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the next book, The Driver.
Worth a read? If you’re looking for a quick read with a strong male character with a moral compass who saves the day, then Saint Death is worth a read. Milton is often compared to Jack Reacher, and the comparison is fair except Dawson doesn’t rely on mystery, so if you like Reacher there’s a good chance you’ll also enjoy Milton.