The blurb on the cover cried Sunday Times Bestseller and advised: If you buy one thriller this year, make it this one. So I added it to my order and I’m so glad that I did.
The eponymous hero of the book is unusual in that he has zero backstory. Creed appears in the Arizona desert with the blazing wreckage of a plane crash behind and with no idea who he is, other than he must save a man who is in danger, a man who is already dead.
He makes his way to the nearby town of Redemption which on the surface is a prosperous place built on the wealth of its 19th-century founder, but it is also a place of secrets that stretch back into history and others of today that threaten its very existence.
Most of the action is in the present and involves a Mexican drug cartel and corrupt officials, while there are flashbacks to the town origins. But who is Creed and how does he know so much stuff? Questions that are only partially answered in this first of a series.
The book is well structured and its British author writes well, particularly the laconic Creed. I had only one ‘aaargh’ moment when on page 361 when the mayor of the town says: ‘I presume he’s appraised you of the situation here?’ Confusing appraise and apprise is one of my bugbears but I guess we can blame the American mayor rather than the writer!
If you like your thrillers tense with an extra dash of mystery then I recommend Solomon Creed and I’m very much looking forward to the next instalment.
Speaking of instalments, while I was away I read The Flame Bearer, the tenth in the Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell, his fictional account of the 9th-century adventures of Uhtred of Bebbanberg which I had been saving until I had the time to savour it.
Cornwell is a prolific writer of course, and I can recommend his non-fictional account of the Battle of Waterloo, but the Uhtred books are the only others of his that I’ve read because it is a period in English history that interests me, albeit a history mostly lost in the murk of the Dark Ages which means that someone has to make it up.
Over the course of the ten volumes, we have seen Uhtred grow from boy to man to venerable warlord (he must be all of fifty years old), the threat to the old English kingdoms from Viking invaders, the dreams of Alfred the Great for a united Englaland (sic) and the early years of the future King Athelstan.
In The Flame Bearer Britain is in a state of uneasy peace and at last Uhtred has the opportunity to regain his family home of Bebbanburg (present-day Bamburgh Castle) stolen by his uncle when Uhtred was a boy. But this proves far from simple given that Constantin of Scotland also has his eyes on the same land, while the machinations of Wessex threaten from the south.
It is rip-roaring stuff and little wonder that the BBC adapted the first two volumes for its The Last Kingdom drama in 2015 with a further series planned for 2017.