Passenger 13 (Ben Hope #0.5), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

After much debating and considering, I have decided to tackle Scott Mariani’s best-selling Ben Hope series. Where better to begin than in the beginning, while Hope was still an active member of the SAS? After an intense tour in Iraq, Hope seeks to enjoy some of his downtime in Wales. However, it’s 2003 and the world is still on edge from the attacks in America and one that shook London. Ben discovers that a close friend (and former colleague) crashed a small plane between the Cayman Islands in an apparent act of suicide. Unsure how Nick Chapman could ever have done something so outlandish, Hope heads there to sift through the ashes and the blowback of the scandal. Soon after he arrives, Hope meets up with Chapman’s daughter, who is equally as baffled about the suicide, even though there is apparent evidence of Nick’s depression within the medicine cabinet. Before his eyes, Hilary Chapman is mowed down and her mobile phone is stolen, the only piece of evidence that Hope has showing that Nick was aware that something was going on. As he tries to piece things together, Hope learns that Nick was a popular pilot and had no reason to do anything so rash. After the authorities prepare their final report, all the passengers from that doomed flight are accounted for when cross referencing the company’s sales, save one; Larry Moss. Jumping on this, Hope seeks to track down Moss and who he might have been. Could this thirteenth passenger hold the key to the entire debacle? A highly curious opening piece in the Ben Hope series, this short story surely has my interest piqued and will surely do the same for many others who have been wondering about the origins of the Ben Hope character and how get got out of the SAS.
When a friend of my suggested I try Mariani’s series, I was quick to take up the challenge, as I have heard much about Ben Hope over the years. It is hard to put a finger on how to describe Ben Hope, for this is only a drop the bucket of the overall character development. I see a lot of other characters with whom I am familiar, but Mariani has done a wonderful job of keeping things somewhat unique. Hope has no family, no ties outside his military work, and seems more than willing to help those he calls friends. With a sleuthing ability, Hope is sure to uncover many mysteries as the series progresses, which has me very interested in seeing where things might go. This short story lays the groundwork for what is sure to be a great collection. I enjoyed the quick pace and the story’s constant advancement. One can only hope that the remaining short stories to begin this collection will keep me as interested before diving into a full-fledged piece of writing.
Kudos, Mr. Mariani for hooking me already. I cannot wait to see where you will take Hope and how you will develop his character in the many novels to come.