As an author, there’s a certain fear that sits in my mind, huddled down in a corner, waiting for the moment to strike – the fear that, one day, my ideas might stop generating. I hope, personally, that this never happens to me and I like to think my brain can keep creating stories that people want to read. However, I don’t think I’m the only author who shares this thought. When you write books, every book released and appreciated is another step in the right direction. When using a reoccurring character, I can imagine this is magnified threefold. Some authors can continue to thrive and some stop at a few books, everyone is different. Sheer Fear is the 3rd instalment in the Jack Lockwood series and it’s still chugging along, solid and steady. Any hint that Geoffrey West is slowing down is non existent.
In fact, I think this is the best Jack Lockwood entry to date.
David Hart is a man framed for crimes he did not commit. He is also Jack Lockwood’s half brother. During a climatic, frantic chase, Hart reveals this conspiracy to Lockwood before falling to his death. Realising that the conspiracy holds weight – and risks implicating a famous public figure for a history of child abuse – Lockwood begins to investigate. However, it’s not long before people linked to the conspiracy begin to die in mysterious circumstances…and then Lockwood’s life is placed in the cross-hairs.
First of all, the opening chapter in this book is one of the best scenes I’ve read in recent years. Instantly bringing your heart into your mouth and ramping the tension up to 10, the characters are thrown into the chaos within the first paragraph. It’s an excellent piece of writing, one that sets the pace for the rest of the book. Whereas Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide was an introduction, and Doppelganger was the difficult ‘second album’, Sheer Fear is where Jack Lockwood finds his feet and begins to take adventure and mystery into his stride. Following the opening, Geoffrey wisely slows the story down, introduces the key characters, coils the spring of the controversial material within and releases it. The result is a delicious story of revenge, betrayal, double crosses, greed and media frenzy. This may be the best Lockwood story yet, but it’s also the most risqué, the most likely to offend, depending on your stance.
We’ve all read the newspapers. Millions of people wonder how famous public figures got away with the abuse of children for decades. The investigations were rife, frequent. At one point, it dominated the headlines of your favourite tabloid. West bravely takes this media frenzy and ups the ante, introducing an antagonistic public figure, with a sordid history, who is willing to do anything to protect his image…anything. It’s a brave decision, one that could have backfired in the wrong hands. However, it’s handled immaculately, without a hint of exploitation in sight. The public figure, ironically, remains unidentified for most of the novel, yet is one of the most hated, most despised enemies I can remember in recent literature. For a man who remains faceless, he certainly causes a lot of destruction in his bid to remain anonymous. West creates a brilliant enemy here, one that shatters the lives of everyone involved by getting his lackeys to clear up the mess.
Lockwood is on form, as usual. As well as investigating the conspiracy, he has to handle a new love interest and a dangerous enemy, one not linked to the conspiracy itself. Lockwood certainly seems to get in some scrapes and Sheer Fear is no different. West wisely scopes the book down here, going for a simple two pronged plot. However, the best thing about Sheer Fear is the underlying threat. Early on, its established that something very sinister is going on. From this point, every page and every character brings an element of intrigue to the story, one that casts immediate suspicion on proceedings. A simple mystery thriller is really ramped up when you consider that the shady goings on could actually be happening in our society as we speak. When you think about it, logically, it could have already happened, and this brings the book into murky, thrilling waters. I totally imagined David Fincher recreating this for the big screen, complete with shadowy skylines, devious characters and the occasional, but very explicit, violent encounter. Where I imagined it as a film, I also envisioned it happening between the lines, behind the scenes, on every newspaper in the country. When a writer can generate this sort of thought in a reader, you know he’s doing something right.
Five stars? Absolutely. Sheer Fear is one of those books. Some people might not like it – the topic could easily be cited as being too close to home with the recent media speculation and revelations. However, as experience has taught me, the best thrills and horror comes from real life. Everyone loves a conspiracy theory and Geoffrey West has created a visceral, violent, engaging and exciting mystery thriller from such a relevant plot device. For a third outing, the book feels very accomplished, as if Lockwood is now in his seventh or eight adventure. Based on the evidence here, he has the potential to go beyond that, into double figures, and become a veteran of the mystery genre. He isn’t quite Reacher, Bond or Hunter yet, but if West carries on in this vein, he has the potential to join them in no time. Excellent stuff!