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When young film-maker Ewan Casher gets a distress call from his mother, he rushes to the family home to find that she is dead, his father is missing and he himself the target of some shady characters. Unknowingly duped into a relationship with one of the people after him, he finds himself unwittingly caught between two top American spy agencies as they stalk him for some information they believe his mother forwarded to him.
On his tail is the elusive Jargo, a rogue agent who sells information to the highest bidder, sometimes stealing the information back from another buyer. As Ewan discovers a huge secret about his parents, and himself, whilst searching for his father, he finds himself in more and more danger, and has to call on a few favours from unexpected sources to help him get from a to b without being captured.
What starts as a thrilling read soon descends into a monotonous and dull thriller. Jeff Abbots Panic starts off by throwing you straight into the action whilst developing its main character as a likeable sort, vulnerable yet approachable. But as Ewan is thrown from one disaster to the next, and from one villain to the next, it starts to lose your interest. There are various twists to the tale, some believable, some not so much. Finally, it just gets too difficult to sustain interest.
While Abbot creates an enthralling set-up, placing you bang in the centre of the central character's plight, he stretches some of the plot points too far and beyond the realms of believability. There is a massive dip in the middle and I didn't feel that the book really recovered from that. I struggled to get to the end, and remained with it only because I found Ewan likeable enough and well rounded enough to stick with it. It wasn't easy.
Abbot's a decent writer, and whilst I am willing to give him another shot, he needs to learn to keep momentum with his story. The book was bitsy and patchy and was too easy to let it descend into the contrived, but once he learns to use what he has to lure the reader in and KEEP them, I think he'll be a much better author than this one allowed him to be.
This book was published in 2005 and has been bought by a major Hollywood company with the option to make a film from the material.
A ringing phone before breakfast is never a good start to the day, particularly when the call is made by your mother who orders you to your childhood home immediately without explanation despite the fact that home is several hundred miles away. Now most people wouldn't settle for such a demand without explanation but Evan Casher is no ordinary person. Mums a photographer, Dads a computer geek and he is a famous documentary maker. Better than that Evan is a man head over heels in love. Why then does Evan walk into his mums kitchen to be met by her bloody corpse? Why is Evan knocked unconscious and his laptop stolen? Why can't Evan locate his father or his girlfriend? More importantly why does a stranger come to Evans aid without Evan knowing he needs assistance by kidnapping him from a police car and incapacitating the driver?
As plots go its intriguing. However the explanation behind the events is at best far fetched and at worst totally and utterly ridiculous which turns a potentially good story line into a farcical idea which gets more and more ludicrous by the minute. Perhaps mummy and daddy have a sideline in espionage. Perhaps they are professional killers, perhaps they have supplied information to the CIA without Evan having a clue that they are anything other than model citizens but there comes a point when enough is enough and even then the acronyms keep flowing. CIA, FBI, MI5, MI6 they're all involved along with a top secret group of hired assassins code named The Deeps.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book, it was nicely paced, well described and rather captivating. Then suddenly it all went wrong almost as if the second half was written by another person entirely. What was a well thought out story suddenly became a case of how many ridiculous and totally random concepts can we cram in. Things became more and more confusing and the book went from being very enjoyable to the sort of thing that makes you want to hurl it out of a window.
Why would the child of perfect parents choose to go on the run based upon the claims of a complete stranger. How would he develop the skills to out manoeuvre trained assassins and why is he bullet proof? So many questions without any form of even half attempted explanation.
I can only think that when Harlan Coben claimed this was "one of the years best books" his previous choice of reading material had been a combination of Mills and Boons romances and The Famous Five.
Chase me, chase me. Sounds exciting doesn't it? Perhaps you are conjuring up images of a lovely lady running through a field of fresh flowers (I know I am), or perhaps a handsome man? Other people may be reminded of dubious 70s comedies that had camp man asking to be chased - even in this case it's somewhat exciting. Unfortunately, imagining a chase or seeing one on film or TV is very different from reading about one. I have read several books that are essentially chase novels that see one person on the run being followed closely. It worked in 'The Fugitive', but on paper it can fail easily. To make a chase thriller exciting you need a talented author who can describe the moments of energy and inertia that drive the story forwards. In the hands of a lesser writer you end up with a silly mess and as a reader you question why the hero did not go to the police at some point. What is Jeff Abbott? Put it this way the book gets one star.
Evan Casher wakes up one morning to a phone call from his mother urging him to get to her house as soon as possible. Despite his haste it appears that Evan was too late because his mother has been brutally murdered and if the two men stringing him up have anything to do with it he will be next. Evan manages to survive this first attack, but it is only the beginning of his life going out of control as he is chased by unknown forces. Why are these people after him and who were his parents really? Evan must discover these facts before he is erased.
From its incredibly poor title to its end 'Panic' was one of the most shambolic books I have read in a long time. For the life of me I do not understand why authors such as Abbott and Dean Koontz think that poorly written chase fiction is what people want to read. From the get go you are aware how stupid the concept is with a man trusting a complete stranger rather than going straight to the police. Taking an everyman and putting him in dangerous situations should work, but Abbott makes Evan a miracle worker as he escapes from overblown set piece to overblown set piece. In reality the wet lettuce that is Evan would have fallen in the very first gun fight. Evan is not a likable man as he fumbles through the book irritating you at every turn.
With a stupid concept the book is not helped by the poor writing. Abbott is an author who writes in short sentences and keeps it fast. This means that you feel like you are constantly being rushed and perhaps a little patronised. I know that thrillers are typically light airport fiction, but this was so wafer thin it could have floated away. Abbott seemed to be over excited in his descriptions and it gave the book a boys own adventure feel that was more apt for 12 year olds rather than an adult market. For all its speed there is actually no real destination and you feel cheated when the book concludes.
With a poor plot, bad writing and wet characters things are even worse when the entire book is based on a flawed concept. The following is perhaps a small spoiler, but if this puts you off reading this book, please continue. Evan is being chased by a covert group of freelance spies who work without the likes of MI6 and the CIA knowing. If this was true then this must be a brilliantly skilful and powerful group as being undetected by these people is near impossible. If this is the case why does Abbott have them led by an idiot and have a psychotic henchman? Call me old fashioned but there are better ways to stay incognito than killing a police officer and a witness at the same time. Abbott throws any sense of reason out at this early point in the book and you know then that you are reading rubbish.
'Panic' is the very worst kind of mindless fiction. It feels like a piece of work that Abbott has churned out in 2 weeks to try and meet some lowest common denominator points. There is nothing original or fun about this book. Most readers will find some of the writing embarrassing and the storyline a joke. I suggest that thriller fans avoid this. If you are looking for something similar, but a lot better, the Lee Child 'Jack Reacher' novels are action packed and very exciting - the opposite of 'Panic'.
Author: Jeff Abbott
Price: amazon uk - £0.01 - only second hand and not worth that!