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Mother Nature can be cruel, just ask the people whose homes have been flooded in recent years, or those that suffered in New Orleans, or those people in the third world were Natural disasters seem a common occurrence. What is even crueler than Mother Nature is the human nature that follows. Looting, rapes, murders, and robberies all rise after a natural disaster. Criminals take the opportunity in the chaos to access people's homes. Husbands may take the flood as a chance to finally murder their wife and float her out of the door - what's another body? For all her vengeance Mother Nature has nothing on the cruelties of man. Jonathon King compares the destructive power of man and nature in 'Acts of Nature'.
'Acts of Nature' puts his traditional PI hero Max Freeman in a situation where is skill set may not work - how do your investigative skills help in a natural disaster? This is the question that Freeman has to ask himself when he is stranded out on the glades with his partner. She is badly injured and could die without immediate medical attention. To makes matters worse the storm has brought out the predators, not just crocodiles, but men looking to loot from the wreckage. Holed up in a mysterious building out in the glades there may be more to this protected alcove than they first realise. Can Freeman get both of them out whilst avoiding the natural and manmade killers?
I have read all of King's novels that centre on Max Freeman and as a rule I have enjoyed them. For the most part they are straight forward PI adventures about a recluse who comes into the big city on occasions to find a missing person or uncover a killer. With this in mind I was surprised in the direction that 'Acts' took. This is not a crime thriller, but a survival thriller. Apart from the fact that it contains Freeman and the Glades the book has almost nothing in common with the rest of the series. This is a bold tactic that King uses and for the most part it works. The biggest problem that the novel could have is that Freeman would feel shoehorned into a book he has no place in. It's clear that King wanted to include his commercially successful hero, but the characters presence is only an advantage to the book and not a hindrance.
It is not so much the characters such as Freeman that make this book, but the events themselves. 'Acts' reads like a disaster movie from the 70s. It establishes a number of characters and follows them as they live through a disaster. We have Freeman and his partner, a group of low lifes and some mercs. All three separate elements are fun to read about and as they get closer and closer together you cannot help but feel the tension as you await the final pay off. Perhaps the three criminals are the most affecting members of the book as they personify everything that is wrong in society; they seek to profit from other people's misery and you cannot help but dislike them although King does make them well rounded. The problem with the three separate story elements is that the book only really hits its stride at the half way point and the start is a little too slow.
When the book kicks in the finale becomes one of King's best. It is at this point that the reason Freeman is the hero once more becomes clear. We already know his strong moral code, so it gives us a hero to support in a book that could have been ambiguous with an unknown at the centre. What is also good is that Freeman is likable and earns your support through his actions. The final 50 pages in particular are nerve gangling.
As an overall novel 'Acts of Nature' does suffer due to a slow start. This slow build up does not really add much to the story and for this reason feels a little like King pleasing himself and not the reader. To a large extent this is all made up for in the last chapters as the story really kicks off for a wonderful conclusion. Perhaps the ideas in the book were more impressive than the story itself. I liked the idea of setting the book around a natural disaster and investigating to see what happens after the crisis, but before people can come to help. This is not King's strongest novel, but it was an interesting enough side project to keep me entertained.
Author: Jonathon King
Price: amazon uk - £11.34