If you’re looking for a good action novel, look no further than Jack Badelaire’s Killer Instincts.
It’s a crisply written story about a young man pursuing the men who murdered his family. But before you dismiss it as a Death Wish knock-off, read a few pages. This is a story that grabs you from page one as we catch up with William, the protagonist, in the middle of a mission. Once the smoke clears, we learn how he became the commando expert we see in that first section. William Lynch links up with some shady characters to learn the finer points of wet work, and we get to watch him transform from mild-mannered kid into something much more. Unlike The Executioner or other characters of this type, who are fully formed when we first meet them, we get to watch Lynch grow and it’s almost as if we are changing along with him. The difference between Lynch and The Executioner is more empathy. More empathy equals more suspense as he takes on one challenge after another. We know he wins in the end, but how he gets there, and how he grows with each step, is the story.
Badelaire chose to write this in first person, which is admirable. It provides another sense of immediacy you don’t often get with action stories. We’re in William’s head the whole time. We see what he sees and change as he changes. While some might say the first person perspective and the thriller are mutually exclusive, in this case it works because the suspense isn’t really in whether or not he gets the bad guys or lives or dies. It’s about the characters and how they relate; how they became who they are; and what they chose to do with their positions in life. While they’ve indeed chosen “the good side”, if you will (and I’m not even sure about that!), we learn that sometimes a hero must adopt methods of the bad guys. Nice guys finish last, you see, and unless you are as equally capable with a submachine gun as your enemy, you’re going to lose the fight. How one gets to that point is what Killer Instincts is about.
It’s available as an ebook and print edition, a nice print edition at that, and you will be well rewarded for the time invested.