Everything seems so transient these days. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but nothing has a sense of permanence about it–politics, prevailing wisdom, common sense… Candy bars are smaller, Twinkies now have expiration dates, and even Archway windmill cookies don’t have almond slices on them anymore. But Cari Hunter’s novels give you a kick as dependable as the sunrise and twice as exciting. Her latest, Alias, is no exception.
In the aftermath of a car crash on a Welsh mountain road, one woman lies dead. The driver is alive, but she has no idea who she or the dead woman is. All she has to go on is an unfamiliar bus pass with her picture and a name she doesn’t recognize. She doesn’t even know what she was doing in a rented car in Wales. With the assistance of Welsh detective Bronwen Pryce, she unravels a mystery that may end up threatening both their lives.
Hunter’s “Dark Peak” series is fast-paced and action-packed, and I wondered how she’d be away from those characters, and I can say she’s still bloody marvelous. The opening sequence with (I’ll use her bus pass name) Rebecca trying to escape from the wreckage with a dead woman beside her drops the reader into a nightmarish world you’re not allowed to leave. Hunter expertly ratchets up the tension, only deflating it long enough for the reader to breathe before another break-in or revelation happens. To say she has an aptitude for action scenes would be understating the case tremendously. The maddening thing about writing a review for this particular book is that I can’t divulge many details or risk spoiling the plot, thereby forcing Hunter to (rightly) send a goon squad after me.
Instead, let me talk about how this doesn’t pander to an American audience. It’s unashamedly British/Welsh, with no explanation for some of the slang except context–which is perfectly fine by me. That was one of the chief virtues, among many others, of A Quiet Death from last year. I can figure out pretty well what “nowty” means. But as interesting as the slang is, the meat of Alias is all in the tension and suspense. The final revelation of who is behind Rebecca’s car crash is jarring and unexpected, but once I started thinking about it, the puzzle pieces fit together beautifully.
Alias, then, is one of Hunter’s best rides–a rollercoaster with some mean peaks, some wicked drops, and left turns when you least expect them. Highly recommended, and I’m not just being nowty.
© 2018, Jerry L. Wheeler