I have no idea why Matt Hilton is not a household name in the United States, especially among fans of thrillers. His novels, particularly those in his Joe Hunter series, start off strong and keep chugging. There simply isn’t a good place to stop reading, other than when you hit the words “The End.” And Hilton is the real deal, possessing a background in law enforcement and private security as well as extensive expertise in the martial arts. However, the most important element of his literary endeavors is that the guy can tell a story. While I’ve never met Hilton, I have the impression that he could keep an entire tavern enthralled for nights on end, spinning yarns without repeating himself even once.
"DEAD MEN’S HARVEST is impeccably plotted and perfectly paced. Two additional books in the series have already been published in Hilton’s native England, and hopefully we will catch up on this side of the ocean in short order."
The foregoing notwithstanding, it’s been a little difficult to obtain some of Hilton’s more recent works, a situation that hopefully has been sorted out for the foreseeable future and beyond. Which brings us to DEAD MEN’S HARVEST, the latest and best (in the U.S.) of the Hunter novels. While these books do build upon themselves, Hilton does a fantastic job of balancing the need to bring newcomers up to snuff on what has gone before while keeping things moving for those who have been along for the wild ride from the beginning. Accordingly, if you are new to the series and things initially seem confusing, hang in there for just a moment or two, and your patience will be rewarded.
Hunter is an extremely capable character, a former counterterrorism operative who now is able to pick and choose the matters in which he becomes involved. In DEAD MEN’S DUST, the future comes back to haunt him, literally, in the form of a dangerous and crazed adversary that Hunter already put down once. Martin Maxwell, to put it mildly, is out there. Formerly a Secret Service agent, Maxwell took on the name “Tubal Cain” and earned himself the nickname “The Huntsman.” Hunter has long believed Cain to be dead, having dispatched him by his own hand. What is revealed early on in DEAD MEN'S HARVEST is that the U.S. government saved Cain’s life and incarcerated him in a maximum security prison, hoping to study him in order to determine what causes a human being to become a monster on the order of Cain. However, no one counts on Cain escaping, and when he does, all bets are off.
Hunter is drawn into the search when his old friend and occasional employer, Walter Conrad, becomes the first of many of Cain’s targets. But Hunter’s surprise that Cain is still alive is quickly eclipsed by the revelation that Cain’s ultimate target is John Telfer, Hunter’s half-brother. Kurt Hendrickson, the powerful criminal who aided Cain in his escape, is finally about to go to trial, and Telfer is the key witness against him. Cain, of course, is more than motivated to go after Telfer, figuring that he will begin his extensive plan for revenge against Hunter by first killing his brother and then exacting a slow and painful death upon him. Hunter has a similar course of action planned against Cain.
The result is a pursuit between the two men that puts the allies of both in great danger, even as Hunter himself is unknowingly hamstrung by a series of deceitful actions from an unexpected source. By the conclusion, much has changed, for better or worse, and Hunter will never be quite the same.
DEAD MEN’S HARVEST is impeccably plotted and perfectly paced. Two additional books in the series have already been published in Hilton’s native England, and hopefully we will catch up on this side of the ocean in short order. Those encountering Hilton and Hunter for the first time here will want to peruse his backlist in the meantime to discover the wealth of literary excitement there as well.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 27, 2013