Matthew Reilly looks like this really calm, placid guy, who would be more at home in a private gentleman’s club (old school, of course, as opposed to the ones with the poles), sitting back in a jar with a snifter of thoroughly aged brandy. Who knows? Maybe he is. All that I have firsthand knowledge of would be the manner in which he writes. Reilly likes thriller novels so much that he has a good case of rabies: his books are wild, contagious, and once you get ahold of one, you can’t get rid of it, and you want to pass it on.
"If you’re looking to have your posterior kicked and your name taken --- figuratively, of course --- this is the book for you."
Reilly’s bread-and-butter character is Scarecrow, who is United States Marine Captain Shane Schofield. He acquired his nickname because of a pair of scars he acquired in battle; if you think from that statement that there is quite the back story to Schofield, you would be right. Fortunately, while Scarecrow’s bibliography is considerable, Reilly does an excellent job of bringing new readers up to speed, dropping nuggets of Scarecrow’s past here and there where necessary and relevant. Accordingly, you can start reading the series just about anywhere, and an excellent place to start would be SCARECROW RETURNS, the latest installment. If you’re looking to have your posterior kicked and your name taken --- figuratively, of course --- this is the book for you.
SCARECROW RETURNS begins with a series of violent events taking place around the world within a relatively short period of time that are all tied to a relatively small paramilitary group known only as the “Army of Thieves.” Most of the actions appear to be for the purpose of acquiring 1) weaponry; 2) money; and 3) intelligence. The method behind the Army’s madness is revealed at a deserted Soviet Army base on an island known as Dragon Island. It is from there that the leader of the Army of Thieves --- the self-styled Lord of Anarchy --- announces his plan to destroy the planet. There’s nothing to negotiate, as there are no ransom or demands. It’s pure and simple “Good night, World,” and it will happen in approximately four hours. The world appears doomed.
Scarecrow is in the area, working with a small equipment-testing team and laying low, due to the fact that the French government has a bounty on his head. He pulls together a small team consisting of a rag-tag collection of military and civilian personnel and proceeds to Dragon Island on what is all but certain to be a suicide mission. Scarecrow’s team no sooner has their first encounter with the extremely capable Army of Thieves than a French special ops team shows up for the purpose of eliminating Scarecrow. When the French are advised of what is occurring, however, they form a somewhat uneasy alliance with Scarecrow’s team.
What follows is page after page of explosions, hand-to-hand combat, death and something like it, double-crosses, and enough action to fill any four books you can think of. Reilly also supplies any number of diagrams, maps and the like, so that one can easily visualize who is doing what to whom, and where and how. But the book is not all action; well, actually it is, but there is a definite plot, and it contains enough twists and turns to navigate through a barrelful of pretzels. Everything is not quite as it seems at any given point here, so don’t get too upset --- or too happy --- by anything that occurs. Just wait; it’s likely to change.
Reilly is simply amazing. He should be a household name, and Scarecrow should be a movie franchise. In 3-D. People would be stretchered out of theaters in droves. I doubt that any film would be as good as the books, however, and SCARECROW RETURNS is a prime example of why that is so.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 2, 2012