Too Far is consummate crime writing by a master of the art, Starr really is on top form here. This is one of the most enjoyable psychological novels I’ve read in a while, plenty of chills and thrills but a lighter tone too. It also has elements of the hard-boiled about it and that make it all the more interesting for me. Fans of the thriller that flip the lives of its characters upside-down and manages to mess with your head at the same time will be totally absorbed by this cracking read. Fast paced, gripping and wickedly funny (this kind of misfortune is always great when it’s at someone else’s expense). In the case of Jack Harper, unhappily married, the first dalliance takes things way, way Too Far. As Jack’s nightmare deepens you can’t help but revel in his pain, and every time you think he’s hit rock bottom trust me he hasn’t yet. Be warned – this is a cautionary tale for any would be cheats out there!
Jack Harper probably knows he should stay the hell away from his old mate Rob McEvoy. But the thing is the guy might just buy a $2M apartment from him and that would mean $120,000 commission for Jack. That’s money he badly needs, not to mention the boost to his self-esteem, he’s at a bit of a low right now. The two men haven’t seen each other for nearly a quarter century but recently reconnected on Facebook. There’s no nice way to say it, Rob is a prick, Jack told his wife that years ago. Now he’s a full-blown flashy, self-important misogynist who gets his validation from owning his own music media business. Jack can’t say no to lunch and Rob is rattling on about how older guys have more respect as he checks out the waitress. He wants the apartment as a pad away from home, what the wife don’t know… Rob fancies himself too smart for the #MeToo trap, he only meets women online – got a strike rate of 8 from 11 so far on an extramarital website. He urges Jack to try it and when they part Discreet Hookups plays on Jack’s mind. He loves his son but his marriage to Maria has gone stale, it isn’t working. Jack manages to talk himself into checking out Discreet Hookups, he’s not strong willed. He gets messaged by Sophie (FUGITIVE_RED). They like each other, they have a shared interest in music, and they both have dead-end marriages. She makes suggestions and Jack (NYCRockGod2) kind of falls in line. Eventually they agree to meet but when Jack turns up at Sophie’s house she’s dead, murdered. He calls the police. Jack assumes the husband must have found out about them and killed her. The police aren’t so sure it’s open and shut; Jack had her blood on him he washed it off, he also removed a neck tie from the victim’s throat and he threatened to tie her up online. As if this wasn’t bad enough things are about to get worse, much worse for Jack…
Jason Starr is a master of the ‘runaway train’ plot. Where characters, in this case Jack Harper, make bad decision upon bad decision – things go wrong, but when Jack tries to put it right it gets worse. He always makes bad choices, deepening the hole, ignoring the stop digging addage. So Jack spends a long time trying to keep his head above water against near impossible odds. It’s a classic element of Too Far and a brilliant facet of hard-boiled fiction. Too Far is a breath-taking plunge into the darkness for Jack but there’s more to this novel than a surprise ending. What happens next is a change of direction, a clever and original divergence of the story, to avoid spoilers I can’t say any more but it’s a very satisfying turn of events. Then when you think it’s all over there’s a little kicker that makes for a poetic ending.
This sharp and funny, contemporary thriller is a full on page turner, it really brightened my day. Jason Starr is the author of a number of excellent thrillers; Cold Caller, Hard Feelings and The Follower among them. He also collaborated on Bust, Slide, The Max and Pimp with Irish legend, Ken Bruen. All thoroughly recommended.
Paul Burke 5/4
Too Far by Jason Starr
No Exit Press 9780857302472 pbk Feb 2019