This is a really good book. And best of all, it’s the first volume in a new thriller trilogy that I’m excited about.

Some plot spoilers follow.

Charlie Hardie is kind of a loser. He’s a seemingly unmotivated slacker who supports his booze and old movie habit through housesitting. As it turns out, when the crap hits the fan, Charlie wasn’t always the loser he appears to be. He’s an ex-cop from Philly who tangled with the Albanian mob and accidentally got his partner and the partner’s family killed. Now he’s in a kind of unofficial witness protection and can’t even contact his own family lest his old enemies discover their whereabouts (how much you want to bet by the end of the trilogy he is forced to demolish Philly’s Albanian mob?). And make no mistake, the stuff hits the fan pretty early on in the novel. Charlie arrives at his new L.A. gig to find a paranoid B-List actress hiding out there from a group called “The Accident People” who work for the Hollywood heavy hitters (and others?) and specialize in killing people and making it look like accidents. The actress is their next target and Charlie becomes a loose end that has to be tied up. And by “tied up,” I mean murdered.

I’d have liked it maybe just a tiny bit better had the protagonist not been quite as, well, “superhuman” as he is. Sure, he starts off as a washed-up, alcoholic ex-cop who’s now basically just a loser who kills time by housesitting, getting wasted, and watching old movies until he passes out. But once the crazy stuff starts happening, we quickly realize that Charlie Hardie is far more than he appears to be. In fact, by the end of the book, Hardie has survived as much as Rasputin – he gets beaten, bludgeoned, tasered, shot, drowned, and had (what should be lethal) chemicals used on him. I don’t think I’m giving much away by saying that he survives it all (keep in mind, this is called the “Charlie Hardie” trilogy for a reason). The secondary characters and antagonists are well-crafted, the dialogue natural, and the pace pretty much never lets up. Despite my brief plot summary above (which doesn’t reveal much more than the back cover), there are plenty of twists and turns that will leave you guessing.

I give this one 4.5 stars out of 5. Great book, fast-paced, very exciting. Sure, we’re asked to suspend our disbelief at times just a little bit more than I’d like, but the premise is terrific, and it’s very well executed. I will definitely be picking up the next sequel.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for a review.

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Review copyright 2011 J. Andrew Byers