Review

Dead Man’s Dust

by Matt Hilton

Let us welcome Joe Hunter to the ranks of thriller
fiction’s action protagonists. Hunter is the creation of Matt
Hilton, a man who brings to his writing table some considerable
bona fides. Hilton has over two decades of experience in Great
Britain as a crime fighter in both the private security and public
law enforcement fields, and along the way has acquired skills in
hand-to-hand-combat and martial arts. His background lends itself
well to the credible establishment of Hunter’s
vigilante/rogue/enforcer persona in DEAD MAN’S DUST, his
debut novel.

Hunter is an interesting sympathetic character, a Special Forces
counterterrorism soldier who is a very specialized bodyguard for
hire, protecting women from abusive significant others. In many
ways this job is personal. John Telfer, Hunter’s
half-brother, a ne’er-do-well inveterate gambler, left the
U.K. three years ago with a girlfriend in tow, leaving his wife
Jennifer with two children and an empty bag. A group of individuals
are holding markers and seeking to collect from Telfer’s
jilted wife. They are warned off in a manner that nicely
demonstrates Hunter’s exquisitely honed skill sets and sets
up readers’ expectations for what comes later.

Jennifer has received a letter from her husband’s
girlfriend, reporting that Telfer has gone missing from their home
in Little Rock, Arkansas, and begging her to contact Hunter. Though
estranged from Telfer, Hunter feels the tug of family ties and
flies to the United States. He makes a short stop in Florida to
pick up Rink, an enigmatic and very dangerous character who
functions as Hunter’s brother-in-arms. Then it is on to
Little Rock, where Hunter learns that Telfer is not the victim of
foul play, but is once again on the run, although for nothing so
mundane as gambling debts. In this case, Telfer has stolen the
wrong thing from the wrong people and is on his way to Southern
California to sell the item to a third party.

Telfer, clever though not necessarily smart, has a penchant for
and a problem with misappropriation, which causes him to
inadvertently make the acquaintance of the killer who calls himself
Tubal Cain. Known to the public at large as The Harvestman, Cain
fancies himself as the nation’s number-one serial killer and
as a natural successor to his de facto idol, Ted Bundy. Cain is a
trophy taker, with his treasures ranging from a piece of shirt
cloth to more, uh, grisly items. When, by happenstance, Cain sets
his predator sights on Telfer, however, his potential victim leaves
him holding nothing but a trick bag and bereft of one of his most
prized possessions.

Cain, with brilliant and frightening ingenuity, tracks down
Telfer and retrieves his prize, but there is something about Telfer
that inspires in The Harvestman a grudging measure of respect. So
it is that when Telfer’s pursuers finally catch up with him,
he has an unexpected though not entirely altruistic ally in Cain.
Hunter and Rink, meanwhile, follow an explosive and deadly trail to
Telfer, trying to save him from himself. When Hunter finally
locates Telfer and his newfound “friend,” the climax is
explosive, surprising and unforgettable.

Hunter would be interesting enough all by himself, but a fine
supporting cast of heroes, villains and those in between fulfill
the expectations that Hilton creates in the first third of the
book. Throwing in a bunch of surprises near the end and leaving a
couple of potential plot threads for the next installment in this
series make DEAD MAN’S DUST one of the more impressive debuts
of 2009.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 29, 2010

Dead Man’s Dust
by Matt Hilton

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0061717193
  • ISBN-13: 9780061717192