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CUT AND RUN


(a Joe Hunter novel)
By Matt Hilton

HarperCollins, 2011 ($9.99)

ISBN-13: 978-0-06-207994-7
Kindle eBook: $8.99

Reviewed by Sam Waas

Joe Hunter, the tough-guy protagonist in CUT AND RUN, is one of those heroes whom all men dream to emulate. Okay, young men. Okay, teenage boys. All right, would you believe tweener boys who still dread that Mom will find "that book" in his bottom desk drawer, boys who think that the tall girl in math class is cute but can't quite muster up enough gumption to sit next to her. Boys whose parents always name them "Phillip" or "Jeffrey" or "Marcus" but never, ever, something keen like Joe Hunter. Okay, so the family name is DeVrees but still you gotta hope.

Grown men will also enjoy this latest thriller by Matt Hilton, women too, I suppose, readers who like their fiction hot and spicy, plenty of fightin' and stabbin' and chasin' with not a lot of time for contemplation, certainly not much effort at verisimilitude. CUT AND RUN is what we fondly call a "ripping yarn," perfectly within its genre, a quick, energetic read that succeeds nicely. It's what my sister called an "airplane book," one you grab at the newsstand before boarding, zip through, and leave in the seat pocket.

I shouldn't disparage CUT AND RUN too much. I'm certain it will sell a zillion copies and please many readers who search out such action-hero novels. The story is quite reasonable for its genre. Joe Hunter (love that name), a former "wet ops" expert, is suspect in a series of vicious murders in his own Florida home area. We soon learn that an old enemy has contracted a vendetta upon him, employing an assassin who's had surgery to resemble Joe and thus frame him while eliminating anyone about whom Joe has cared. The trouble that these criminal masterminds go to!

Joe targets the killer while the killer targets all of Joe's friends, reserving Joe himself for the final course, naturally. The action takes us from Florida to Maine to Colombia and back to Florida. Many are killed.

I did find the novel helpful. I'll list just a few of the Truths Learned While Reading CUT AND RUN:

— Joe's instincts border on the supranormal, like Tarzan or maybe Elvis. Entering a room, he can detect minute currents of air caused by someone standing quietly nearby and sniff the odor of a nervous assassin hiding in the closet. I kid you not.

— Despite this, Joe, even while conscious of being tailed by cops while driving on the city streets, is still so unaware of his nemesis trailing him that the bad guy tracks him for miles, then amazingly knows where Joe's headed (even though Joe picks his destination at random) and in about two minutes, sets up a sniper perch atop a large public arena after having parked in the underground lot and made his way up through the multi-story structure, past the people inside, all the while lugging a case with a large sniper rifle inside. And takes out a couple cops at a considerable distance, too, no zeroing shots needed. Joe's enemies are not only cunning, but prescient.

— State police in Maine still carry revolvers and don't wear ballistic vests, even when investigating an apparent felony. Perhaps they were celebrating retro month?

— Nine millimeter is the baddest and hottest handgun caliber available to covert ops, spies, cops, and baddies alike (excepting the retro cops with .38s). This works fine on TV where the entire universe uses 9mm Glocks, but hasn't anyone heard of a .45, nearly twice the juice?

— Regardless of being somewhat underpowered, the 9mm still overpenetrates in a gunfight, whizzing right through people and out the other side like we used to see in Fearless Fosdick.

— Speaking of being shot, everyone, men, women, cops, spies, Starbucks customers, and covert ops pros all "scream" when hit. So many people were screaming that I thought they were filming a Wes Craven movie. Grab a thesaurus, fellas.

— Just like 9mm pistols, ceramic folding knives are the cat's pajamas, the death-bringer of choice for any assassin worth his salt, evidently so radical a weapon that nobody suspects it. Yeah, right. I've got one somewhere, bought it as a novelty years ago.

— Joe Hunter and his buddy must enjoy swamps. They take a treacherous backwoods detour to a remote hospital, only to simply walk in the front door anyway. I've yet to figure out why the watery trek was needed, unless maybe a bath?

— Smoke from a big gunfight smells like a fireworks celebration. Well, no, Joe, it doesn't. Modern smokeless powder smells nothing like black powder. And they call it smokeless for a reason. Maybe they celebrate retro month in Colombia, too?

— Lear Jets are now Leer Jets.

— The definition of "insure" has changed. Once it meant that you take out an insurance policy, but in Joe Hunter's world, it's replaced the word "ensure," meaning that you make certain of something. Maybe they should ensure a good editor was available. Or insure against a haphazard one?

— The narrative does offer a few fun "huh?" sentences that rise up and grab you: "We headed out on Kennedy Boulevard, sitting silently." or "My ears were pulsating."

My brain was certainly pulsating after finishing the novel. Still, for those into this fast-action, damn the consequence type of potboiler, CUT AND RUN is an entertaining read.

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