Review

I, Sniper: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel

by Stephen Hunter

I have been in love with Stephen Hunter’s work ever since
I picked up a paperback copy of DIRTY WHITE BOYS years ago. I read
him religiously as his novels bounce back and forth in time, across
the country, and up and down the ancestral tree of the Swagger
family, recounting their grim and loyal love affair with country
and firearm weaponry.

The best of these for me have been those concerning Bob Lee
Swagger (what a great name) --- aka Bob the Nailer --- a Vietnam
Marine sniper who seeks neither spotlight nor fortune, instead
quietly enjoying the knowledge of a job well done. Swagger is
legendary in his circles, and thus on occasion is dragged ---
either by himself or by others --- back into the fray,
notwithstanding his desire to live well and quietly and to enjoy
the fruits of his quieter labors. So it is that Swagger,
approaching the perilous age of 70, is by sense of duty brought
into what is supposed to be a quiet investigation in I, SNIPER.

The premise that gets the novel going is simple enough: four
infamous 1960s anti-war radicals --- a traitorous actress, a
husband and wife terrorist duo enjoying the fruits of academia, and
a leftist comedian who approaches battles of wit at half-advantage
--- are gunned down, sniper-style. An FBI investigation leads a
team headed by Special Agent Nick Memphis almost immediately to
Carl Hitchcock, a Vietnam-era Marine war hero, considered to be the
best of the best. He has motive and the ability to take the four
out, and worse, he appears to have been in the area where the
murders took place. Evidence at his home and at the grisly scene of
his apparent suicide seems to confirm his culpability.

Memphis is on the receiving end of pressure to get the matter
officially cleared up, most of it applied by a media mogul who is
the divorced husband of the now-deceased actress. But Memphis wants
to get it right and brings in a fresh pair of eyes attached to his
friend, Bob Lee Swagger, to make sure all is as it seems. It is
not, of course, and Swagger’s observations set the
investigation spinning in a different direction. Memphis quickly
finds his brilliant career, heretofore on an upward trajectory,
suddenly and inexplicably derailed thanks to a useful idiot with
the might and majesty of “the newspaper of record”
behind him. In spite of this, Swagger does what he knows, which is
to move forward in search of the truth. When it appears that the
only way to stop Swagger is to take him off the board, things heat
up in earnest as a shadowy team at the top of their game begin to
hunt him. Little do they know that --- old, banged-up and tired ---
he is really the one who is hunting them. Bet on Swagger.

Hunter is at his best in I, SNIPER. Dialogue? Crisp, real, down
to earth, and sometimes hysterically funny. Action? Have a box of
Depends at the ready. Technical support? Pay attention. Reading
Hunter is like taking a Master’s course in armament. You
might even learn why it wouldn’t be too wise to second guess
police officers and soldiers in the field. Story? You will not be
able to stop reading. And the best part is the message between the
lines. Old, wounded and tired he may be, but Swagger has the right
stuff, the same stuff that something or someone seems dead set on
breeding out of the best and brightest of us.

As wonderful as Hunter’s past work has been, I, SNIPER is
the book against which all other novels should be judged. Strongly
recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

I, Sniper: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel
by Stephen Hunter

  • Publication Date: September 21, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket
  • ISBN-10: 1416565175
  • ISBN-13: 9781416565178