Jack Heath does not waste a second in the start of his third book, Hideout, featuring part time FBI consultant and full time cannibal Timothy Blake. Blake turns up at a house in rural Texas, pretending to be a man who he has just killed called Lux, armed with a hammer and prepared to kill (and eat) a man called Fred.
As with all of Blake’s victims, Fred is a bad guy, how bad comes clear fairly quickly. But Blake has to change plans when he finds out that Fred is not alone. It turns out that Fred shares the house with five other sociopaths who call themselves ‘The Guards’ and Blake quickly decides that possibly he will need to kill them all.
That set up, in the first few pages, drives the first third of the book. Blake, desperately trying to convince people that he is actually Lux even though he knows very little about the man (fortunately the others have only encountered Lux online) while uncovering the truth behind Fred’s operation. And that operation is peddling in violence porn online. Selling videos to people who are will to pay to watch others being tortured or killed. The angle that The Guards take is that their victims are themselves “bad people”, an approach that at first blush gels with Blake’s own twisted moral code. Things step up when one of the Guards is killed in suspicious circumstances and Blake realises that he may have an ally among the Guards and then further when a new victim who has ties to Lux (and Blake) is taken. It is at around the two-thirds mark where this story really kicks into gear.
Readers who have been along on the Timothy Blake ride since Hangman will know what they are getting in to. The main character is a self-confessed cannibal (although he only tries to eat the guilty) who goes after people who are worse than him. As Heath himself says in the intro: “It is unsuitable for children and some adults.” And he is not kidding. There is plenty of violence here, but more than that, a journey to the dark side of the internet and a view of the worst aspects of new technology. Blake himself has a twisted kind of moral centre that allows readers who get this far to root for him, even while potentially not liking him. As with the second book in this series, Hunter, Hideout focuses more on Blake’s dissembling and misdirection skills than his deductive puzzle solving skills. That said, there are some puzzles here, including a diversion into a locked room mystery, and some clever twists and reveals related to their solution.
Jack Heath has a long history of writing for children and young adults. In the Blake series he seems determined to “shake his sillies out” by being as dark and depraved as possible. But despite the darkness there is a nobility to Blake, and some satisfaction to be had in the way he goes after those more despicable than him, often putting his body on the line to do so. Hideout is another strong entry in this series which continues to draw on a wealth of thriller influences (this one includes a many-bladed nod to the original Fargo) while staying unique. But once again, Hideout is not for the squeamish. You have been warned.
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- Dear Child (Romy Hausmann) – book review
Robert Goodman is a book reviewer, former Ned Kelly Awards judge and institutionalised public servant based in Sydney. This and over 450 more book reviews can be found on his website Pile By the Bed.