"Clearcut - This is my first read by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is my favorite genre and I'm happy to add Mr. Maloney to my list of "wanna read more of their books". Well written, but in need of minor editing, and fast paced, this novel is filled with suspense, intrigue and action. " Texas, Goodreads
Published: December 6th, 2018
Adrian Cervantes’s Ranger squad was betrayed and ambushed in Iraq, sent to deliver an embezzled payoff to a man who didn’t exist. The lone survivor, Cervantes went AWOL, returning to the States to distribute his purloined cash to the families of his squad. But it’s not as simple as leaving a check in the mailbox. Every family he visits has their own troubles. Law enforcement hunts him at every turn. And Cervantes’s need to see justice done earns him plenty of enemies.
Cervantes’s first stop is the fading lumber town of Cullinan, WA. His plans to visit the Quinones family are complicated by the death of the father and the suspicions of the widow. Teaming up with a local lawyer, Cervantes uncovers enough questions to cast doubt that the father’s death was a drunken accident. But his investigation puts him in the sights of local bruisers, crooked cops, and the real power behind the lumber mill. In the end, Cervantes discovers a conspiracy that’s robbing Cullinan of its livelihood, and he puts it to rest the only way he knows how.
If I have a guilty pleasure, it's the vigilante thriller
"Guilty pleasure" is itself a guilty term in an era of blockbuster superhero movies, binge TV, and poptimism. We're supposed to own up to the things we like without shame. And I can't feel too guilty about my tastes if I'm blogging about them, I suppose.
But we're also supposed to recognize the limitations in our favorites. Nothing in this transient world comes without its flaws. And vigilante thrillers have, perhaps, more flaws than most subgenres.
The idea of a hero defying law and social convention in a lone quest for justice speaks to me. But "defying law and social convention" is also a handy excuse for "being an asshole." And, if I'm being fearless and searching in my moral inventory, that's what vigilantism is: a socially acceptable excuse for violence.
It's a way to daydream about fistfights, car chases, and gun battles without the consequences of being a menace. Sure, I'm a murderer and an asshole, but it's for the right reasons. I don't want to be violent, really, but I had no other choice.
Plus, far too often, vigilante thrillers are just an excuse for the author to lament about a "weak" or "soft" society. In a civilized social order, we outsource violence and the pursuit of violent offenders to an official body. Therefore, if there are offenders who haven't been brought to justice, it means that these officials have failed. Or, depending on your politics, the officials are being held back by too much red tape, too little firepower, or too high a regard for civil liberties.
So given these flaws, why do vigilante thrillers still speak to me? Sure, past a certain point I just like what I like, regardless of how problematic it is. I can't completely redraft my aesthetics to match my politics, especially if my politics change. My views aren't what they were 10 years ago, yet I'm trying to write novels that will (hopefully) still be readable 10 years from now.
Ultimately, I think the real draw is the fantasy of a life without compromise. So much of the "real world" (meaning, the world of paychecks and health insurance) requires sacrifice. We may make bold declarations of principle - to our friends, over drinks, in impassioned Facebook posts - but the material limitations of the world prevent us from living those principles to the fullest.
To a certain extent, that's healthy. We're not built to be unswerving ideologues; we're built to get along with the people around us.
But it's fun to imagine a life where we don't have to temper our pursuit of justice - where we have not only the skills and resources to redress the wrongs of the world, but also the will to see it through. And we tell ourselves that we could survive if this path isolated us from friends, family, colleagues, and the social order. But secretly, we also like to imagine that people would respect us if we followed this dedicated path. Maybe they'd even give us a little help along the way.
They say you should write the types of books you want to read but can't find. That's what CLEARCUT and the Adrian Cervantes series have been a stab at: all the things I think are good and empowering about vigilante thrillers, with as few as possible of the flaws. It remains to be seen how well I've done, but I'm willing to keep trying.
About the author:
Jack Mahoney lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts. When he's not practicing jiu-jitsu or catching up on crime thrillers, he's putting in work on the next Adrian Cervantes novel.
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