The Mark by Jason Pinter

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The Mark by Jason Pinter

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A young journalist fresh from university gets trapped in a huge plot involving corruption, the New York Mafia, and the salvation proffered by a gorgeous girlfriend. Despite all that it works as a very fresh and exciting genre read, which we can easily recommend.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: May 2008
Publisher: MIRA Books
ISBN: 978-0778302315

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Henry Parker has always had to go one step further than most. One struggle more than the average young American, to escape his unappealing upbringing, and his near-rural home, leave university with a good start in a journalism career, and get a prestigious opening at the New York Gazette. There he is, 24, horrid apartment, girlfriend thinking of leaving for greener grass elsewhere, but intent on proving himself by going beyond the norm, and to try and instil a worthy reliance and trust in his career and his readership. Unfortunately, he's stuck writing in memoriams to start with.

But one leading writer on the paper gives him a simple task to help him out, by claiming a few easy quotes from an interview. Led by his habits of going one step beyond the norm, though, he finds himself in a horrific scene, and consequently has to struggle a lot more than the average young American just to stay alive. As a most attention-grabbing prologue tells us, he soon ends up in a room, unarmed, with three gun-wielding people, all wanting him dead. We have to hope the other 350 pages of back-pedal are just as absorbing.

And luckily enough they are. There is a great freshness to the writing here, and that goes through the plotting, which really does provide for some honest-to-goodness cliff-hangers, that arrive in the story at key times with no sense of the artificial construction whatsoever, to the characterisation (even considering the girl who rescues Henry and becomes the gorgeous saviour we could all only wish for in such circumstances), to the pleasantly wicked side of the baddies we encounter when we leave Henry's testimony.

It would be beyond me to say much about what Henry stumbles on, and what and who is sided against him as a result, but despite the seemingly enormous threat carried by the police, the New York Mafia families and mysterious men appearing from beyond the grave, the plot allows for a seemingly perfectly realistic adventure for Henry to survive.

I won't pretend this book is the most brilliant thriller, which for me would probably have to try very hard to distinguish it from the genre, but it is very easy to imagine this book as being much, much worse than it is. The virginal character of Henry would be mawkish in his naivety, especially given the first-person approach, and many lesser writers would drop him in far too deep, leaving him to wallow with unrealistic flesh wounds and still swim through everything and keep the girl.

In fact, I am in full agreement with one of the puff writers quoted, Lee Child no less, who states the great doubt that can exist in the reader that Henry might just not survive to the last page alive. Unfortunately another quote mentions the sequel, and indeed we do get the first few pages of that, so that scuppers that surprise.

Looking to the next book in the series for a moment, I have to express my doubts that it will conform to the very nice pattern begun here – where the circumstances of the hero, his career, personality and motivations, coincide so nicely, and both inform and are informed by, the plot he is caught up in. I can't see that happening next time, although I could easily be proved happily wrong, and that's unfortunate, as it is a strong feature of this book.

Still, for now Jason Pinter, who it would appear had an early career in publishing before putting this first novel on the market, has provided us with a very nice genre read. It might have caught me on a good day when I gave it four and a half Bookbag stars, rather than four, but I can only try and put myself in the mind of the thriller fan I am not, and figure this book for the success I honestly think it is.

The twists in the story, the developments on both sides of the chase, the unusual points of entry and exit from the story some people have, all provide a surprise to the reader not expecting anything so superlative. At the same time the writing is very assured, and with no 'about me' here for Pinter to judge Henry alongside we can only congratulate him for getting under the skin of his burgeoning, try-hard, do-good reporter character. This certainly adds to the pleasure of the book, having a likeable hero, dropped into a concerning circumstance that grows and grows until something has to give.

It might appear a chunky read – 360pp – but all goes past supremely easy, with a very recommendable plot, enjoyable quandary for the main characters, and most satisfying twists galore. From the baddy, to the dialogue, to the chutzpah Pinter shows at times with his reveals, all works most enjoyably, and thriller readers will definitely enjoy the ride.

I would certainly like to thank Mira Books for a review copy. We also have a review of The Stolen by Jason Pinter.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Cairo Diary by Maxim Chattam.

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