The pedometer geek reader’s local library, the Huron Public Library, had an event with a publisher’s representative (Penguin, I believe it was) almost two years ago. The rep discussed various upcoming titles that she was excited to represent (some of which this reader has read, but I digress). She also gave participants the opportunity to have some copies of other upcoming titles. This reader chose an uncorrected bound proof of Vanishing Games, which was written by Roger Hobbs. Thus, despite the tardiness related to the time since receiving the novel, this pedometer geek reader now presents the extended review.
by Roger Hobbs
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
a division of Random House, LLC
Vanishing Games is the thrilling sequel to Hobbs’ debut novel, Ghostman. Having not read that one, it was with some trepidation that this reader began to read his second novel. What if it was the continuation of a story that had ended with a cliff-hanger ending? Would it make any sense or would it always be a matter of trying to figure out the “rest of the story,” in a sense, always playing a game of catch up? Well, the answer is: No. This story can be read as a stand-alone.
While the main characters of Angela and Jack were the same, there is little that harkens back to the first story. When there are references to earlier exploits and events, the author deftly explains enough so that the reader is not wandering around in the dark. Because of those little explanations of the characters’ past history, this reader feels compelled to read the first one. Yes, some of the events will be less dramatic, but not so much as to deny the reader from enjoying the tale and getting all the gritty details.
Without too many spoilers, this tale, set in Asia, specifically Macau and Hong Kong, has pirates, smuggling, organized crime, master criminals/thieves, and mercenaries. As the novel opens, a group of pirates opens fire on a small yacht, a yacht that is smuggling a fortune in uncut sapphires. More than that, the pirates stumble upon a greater treasure, and only one man from the crew survives, and he plans to disappear completely with both.
His boss, Angela, isn’t about to let that happen. But, who to trust?
It’s been six years since Jack, known as the Ghostman, last saw Angela; six years since their last caper, the one that was so botched that Jack barely escaped with his life. Frankly, without his partner in crime, Jack has become bored and is gambling away his life when he gets a message he never expected. Angela is alive and needs him to travel to Macau immediately.
Without a thought for his safety (can she really be alive?), he takes off only to find himself running for his life again. Finally, the two re-connect, and it is up to the two of them to retrieve the merchandise (the sapphires) without getting themselves killed. Non-stop action and dangerous situations liberally litter this thriller that has them caught between a mercenary and a triad (an organized crime family). Ultimately, will either of them survive, and if so, will they get merchandise before pulling another vanishing act?
The writing style and the plot is reminiscent of the novels of Gerald Browne, a writer this reader has enjoyed over the years. Twists and turns, double-crosses, intrigue, and more make for compelling can’t-put-it-down reading. Hobbs gives a bit of background information to enhance the reader’s understanding of unfamiliar concepts, but not in a heavy-handed manner. Overall, it’s a suspenseful read that is complete as is, but leaves potential for more from this author. Will there be another story featuring Jack?
As for this reader, it is time to read Ghostman.
(Gerald Browne’s novels include Stone 588, 18mm Blues, Hot Siberian, and 19 Purchase Street among others.)