Freefall by Adam Hamdy

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Freefall by Adam Hamdy

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Category: Crime
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: James Michael Warren
Reviewed by James Michael Warren
Summary: An imaginative opening gives way to generic international thriller in a disappointing sequel to the successful Pendulum.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 560 Date: November 2017
Publisher: Headline
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472250070

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The mysterious suicide of a journalist and happy mother in London. Returning hero John Wallace tries to shake off his grief in the mountains of Afghanistan. A masked serial killer assaults a police squad with a gruesome decapitation device in Malibu.

The opening quarter of Adam Hamdy's Freefall is really, really, very good indeed. It is rich and imaginative – in that way literature tends to read when the author is clearly in love (but not infatuated) with his or her work. The unexplained death of the journalist is sad and compelling; Afghanistan – by night and day – is described with deft beauty; Vosuruk – the Afghan leader giving host to the hero is charismatic and weighty; and the killer's remote-controlled garrotting devices are frightening and gothic.

But by page 150 the journalist story is relegated to the background, Wallace leaves Afghanistan and Vosuruk behind, and the killer and his toys give way to a digital conspiracy plot that might not go all the way to the top, but certainly too far for Hamdy to keep in his sights.

Interesting and flavourful locales are replaced with hotels at night, private headquarters in warehouses, silly secret bases underground and the backs of taxis and 4x4s. Slow, measured scenes and quiet moments hinting at deeper feeling become whiplash chases, shootouts and kidnappings, and four or five interesting protagonists bloat into a pantomime of clunky backstories and rushed characterisation.

The faster the pace, the poorer Hamdy writes. To read a few chapters of Freefall after 200 pages is a greater disservice to his ability than any one star review. In action movies we accept characters being knocked out with a blow to the head, once or twice – even given the medical unlikelihood of not sustaining life-changing injuries from such blows – because it is a convenient way to bridge scenes. Hamdy utterly litters his text with them. Bang. Wake up. Next scene. Bang. Wake up. Next scene. It is lazy, almost as lazy as the number of occasions characters are burst in on by masked men just as they're about to let their guard down. It is all very disappointing precisely because Hamdy starts by showing us he can do this thing so well.

Rushing to deadline. Distractions. A wane of interest. Hamdy may never tell us precisely where this one went awry – he may not know himself. But Freefall is a failure. Another year, another 100 pages, perhaps even a 100 less, and this – I suppose in the most literal sense – could've been a different story. There was a brilliant thriller blooming there, but this time it wasn't to be.

Hamdy is a talented writer. There will be other books. No more beyond that needs to be said.

For prior reading, try Pendulum by Adam Hamdy.

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