Near Dark (Scot Harvath #19), by Brad Thor

Seven stars

Never one to turn away from a Brad Thor thriller, I turned to the latest in the Scot Harvath series. In a novel that picks up where the last conveniently ended, Thor thrusts the reader into the middle of yet another tactical battle. When Carl Pedersen is found murdered, Scot Harvath can only wonder if it has something to do with one of his past missions. News emerges that Harvath has a massive bounty put out on him, forcing him to take significant precautions. This is an open bounty, where anyone who is successful collects a massive sum, leaving Harvath to always peer over his shoulder. Without knowing where his enemies await, Harvath must forge ahead with reckless abandon and hope for the best. When Harvath finds himself in Lithuania, he learns a little more about Pedersen and some of the missions he undertook in the past. There are some whispers that the Russians might have taken action in retribution for a recent dust-up, but Harvath cannot rest on his laurels. Working with a sly agent whose background comes from the Scandinavian countries, Harvath seeks to extract as much information as he can in order to neutralise the largest threat. With the bounty still in play, he will have to be careful not to make a misstep, for it may be his last. A must-read for series fans, though this one lacked a little of the spark I had hoped to find. Recommended to those who enjoy Harvath and his thrills, as well as readers who like a little international flavour to their novels.

Every series has its best before date and it is up to the writer to keep things fresh, or tap out before they expire. While the first eighteen books in this series proved to be ‘edge of your seat’ thrillers, Brad Thor may have let his foot off the gas with this one, sure to displease ardent fans. Harvath has lived a long and productive life, as can be seen by those who have long followed the series. He has had victories and utter failures in his personal and professional lives, all of which are recapped here throughout a constant flashback narrative. With little to develop except that which is before him, Harvath loses some of his appeal, as though he is simply going through the motions and trying not to die. If I can be so bold, it seems as though Harvath is at the point where it might be time to hang up the tactical vest, as he is no longer able to forget the scars and the numerous aches. The list of strong secondary characters include some returning faces and many new ones as well. Thor hints at some possible new leaders or spin-off series with some who receive both backstory and character development, which might help revitalize the larger Thor universe and breathe new life into his writing. There was nothing overtly wrong with the writing or inherently poor with the plot, but it lacked the depth, sharpness, and twists that series fans have come to expect. I can only surmise that Thor is wondering if he wants to go in a new direction and yet seeks to tie things off before departing, or if this was a last kick at the can in hopes of getting one more book out of Harvath. There is no shame in moving on, but one can hope that Brad Thor will effectively shift things to a new series and not leave his fans with an abrupt cessation after a score of novels bearing Harvath’s presence.

Kudos, Mr. Thor, for another interesting book. I have a feeling this book was meant to convey something to your fans without you bluntly putting it out in a press release. Am I wrong?

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: