Ian Kennedy Martin, born in 1936, was a prolific British screenwriter with a career spanning four decades. His most notable work is police drama The Sweeney (1975-1978), a television show that was critically acclaimed for its realism. Along with shows like The Onedin Line, The Capone Investment and Parkin's Patch, Martin also authored a dozen or more novels including the 1977 action-adventure paperback novel Rekill, published in the U.S. by Ballantine. It was issued as a $3 ebook in 2012.
The first six-pages of Rekill set the tone for much of the novel's first half. Readers are spectators as an unknown man, possibly foreign, arrives on a rural Kansas farm to await a family's arrival. When a woman and two small children arrive, the stranger executes them in brutal fashion. Many hours later, the woman's husband comes home to find his family slaughtered and the intruder waiting. In later pages we learn he was tortured and executed and the farm house burned. This same style of execution repeats for three more families before readers are thrown into the thick of the narrative.
When a former North Vietnamese solder is identified as the killer, American brass orchestrate a plan to find and terminate the assassin. The man they choose for the mission is Leeming, a former U.S. Colonel who ran a special forces camp combating the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Leeming faced a court-martial and was later removed from service prior due to a particular incident. Now, Leeming, a widower, lives with his brother on a North Dakota farm. The military asks Leeming to train a special forces soldier to seek and destroy the foreign assassin. If he agrees, the government will remove the court-martial from his records. Leeming agrees and soon the narrative thrusts readers into espionage and intrigue in Paris.
The author had a number of great ideas for the book's plot design. Leeming's protege is interesting and the character allowed the author to create a really unique chemistry – the old warhorse training the younger soldier for a deadly mission. But by the book's second half, most of that story-line is wiped clean. The plot’s emphasis shifts to scouting and researching a known criminal to learn the whereabouts of the assassin. This part was rather redundant and dull after the enticing first half. The book's closing chapters were exciting, but nothing I haven't read before in international spy novels.
If you like slower, more developed international mystery and intrigue, Rekill might be for you. It's distinctively British – slower story, emphasis on planning, dry romantic encounter, high-adventure (there's rock climbing) – that recalled the work of Hammond Innes or a deep-discount Desmond Bagley story. Otherwise, I found Rekill retreading much of the same ground that we’ve all read before. The end result is an average action-adventure novel that should please most readers depending on their reading experience and frequency.
If nothing else, the paperback has a great cover.
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