Review: The Tenth Circle by Jon Land


TenthCircleThe Tenth Circle by Jon Land (Open Road Media, 2013)

Blurb: Blaine McCracken pulled off the impossible on a mission in Iran, but his work has just begun. Returning to the US, he faces another terrible threat in the form of Reverend Jeremiah Rule, whose hateful rhetoric has inflamed half the world, resulting in a series of devastating terrorist attacks. But Rule isn’t acting alone. A shadowy cabal is pulling his strings, unaware that they are creating a monster who will soon spin free of their control.

Finding himself a wanted man, McCracken must draw on skills and allies both old and new to get to the heart of a plot aimed at unleashing no less than the tenth circle of hell. A desperate chase takes him into the past, where the answers he needs are hidden amid two of history’s greatest puzzles: the lost colony of Roanoke and the Mary Celeste. As the clock ticks down to an unthinkable maelstrom, McCracken and his trusty sidekick, Johnny Wareagle, must save the United States from a war the country didn’t know it was fighting, and that it may well lose.

As promised in the blurb, The Tenth Circle is a plot-driven thriller featuring a larger-than-life action-movie hero in Blaine McCracken. In this novel he is up against the denizens of what Reverend Rule terms the tenth circle of hell: “A residence reserved for the most damned who seek nothing but death and destruction during their wasted time as interlopers in the world of our Lord.”

Not having read any previous books in this series (this is the eleventh), for the first third of the book I enjoyed the action and the steadily increasing tension. But fairly soon I reached a point where the action was so over-the-top as to border on cartoonish. Without the undercurrent of humor necessary for it to be tongue-in-cheek, the novel takes itself seriously, but by the halfway point my willingness to suspend disbelief had largely vanished.

What should be nonstop action is hampered in places by clunky exposition; heart-pounding scenes are followed by multi-page descriptions of locations from the past, which both saps the energy from the story and becomes confusing as the POV shifts between characters, and chapters that end in cliffhangers for one character are followed by slow-moving, seemingly unrelated bits of other characters’ history. This is worsened by the author’s tendency to provide character backstory by having two characters literally read each other’s dossiers aloud—which is not only unlikely, especially when the characters are well known to each other, but also renders the dialogue stilted and unrealistic. Then again, Land’s characters don’t always like to speak to each other; instead, they manage to convey entire chunks of dialogue in a smirk, sneer, shrug, nod, beam, grin, or any number of ways that don’t actually involve speech.

If you’re a fan of over-the-top, Hollywood-style action thrillers with indestructible heroes, this may well be the book for you. But if you prefer three-dimensional characters and more realistic storylines, best to give this one a pass.

This book was furnished by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 2 stars


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