Written by Sean Slater

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung

Simon and Schuster
RRP: £6.99
Released: 4th August 2011
As a novel in the telling The Survivor moves fast, but that just reflects the world in which Detective Jacob Striker works and has to work. In fact, within a few pages of the opening he has to work pretty speedily– he is in school to discuss his daughter’s problems when three gunmen open fire with automatic weapons and he races to confront them.

That can cause problems – how can you take out each one in turn when you might have another at your back? They might be wearing masks, but then many of the school kids will be wearing masks, in school or not, because they are looking forward to Halloween. So, when two out of the three shooters go down to Striker’s fire that helps save a desperate situation; it starts to look different when his superiors and internal affairs wonder if one of his victims might be innocent, shot dead without Striker having allowed himself time to think.

It sometimes seems that Striker never has time to think – he does not stop to tend the wounded, but takes his partner Felicia Santos with him as they follow the surviving gunman, fleeing in his Honda Civic. Passion dissipates in the lanes out of town where they lose the car, but Striker finds a clue and is able to extrapolate from it. It only seems that Striker cannot think, but then as we learn something of his backstory we learn he has other monkeys on his shoulder, including a deceased wife, some ancient pains, and more continuing grief in trying to keep his daughter on the straight and narrow. Things appear to be going against him, when said daughter is truanting from school and does not answer her ‘phone.

Switching view points, Sean Slater introduces us to the survivor and the history that has made him the killing machine he is, along with hints as to his future targets, though Slater holds back on the reasons for mass murder and civic mayhem. And in another point of view we start to worry about Miss Striker and people she is getting to know. All – as events prove – with good reason.

The Survivor
is good but not great – Striker’s backstory is held back, and when he does show some intelligence or planning it results in things being over the top (you will recognise this when you read about the unwilling witness having to share a cell. I say no more about the scene). Oddly – despite the author, who uses a pseudonym, being a Vancouver policeman – I recall nowhere that the city is named as Vancouver, although the background problem of immigrant gangs is a near-Vancouver specific problem. The revelation of the reason for the massacre, too, just gets dropped in. So that makes Sean Slater’s The Survivor a sort of Lee Child-lite, someone like his namesake Sean Black. None of them to be written off.
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