Title: Vapor Trail
Author: Dick Hannah
Review: Well, the prologue to Dick Hannah’s third novel; Vapor Trail certainly gripped my attention as a reader. It is told from Jeremy Stubbin’s point of view telling us how many explosions he has encountered. The first two are expected as he was in a war zone but the third absolutely stunned Stubbin’s and me. Hannah packs in the action, suspense and intrigue for the offset. As soon as you begin reading you can not put the book down until exhaustion sets in as it did in my case.
The opening chapters to this novel are just brilliant. I instantly loved the main character and how is own personality throws a conspiracy into what is an apparent suicide. Jeremy knows that the woman who is dead; Andrea who wouldn’t in his opinion commit suicide. He also points out to the police that people intending to commit suicide wouldn’t plan meeting for the following day as Andrea did. Stubbins is also one of the only people not taken in custody as everyone else was caught in a lie of some sort – but why is the major question hanging over this scene. The prologue is also raising a lot of questions about the explosion but I am sure this will be raised again later on in the novel. Even though Stubbins uncovers some interesting facts almost straight away it throws up a lot more questions than answers. Stubbins is beginning to embark on an investigation into his friends’ death but I feel its going to be a lot more confusing and dangerous than he thinks.
As Jeremy digs into Andrea’s supposed suicide he begins to notice strange things happening around him. Jensen begins to dig into military conspiracies claiming that Wick Jeremy’s long time friend is dead and was murdered for reasons he won’t disclose. After reaching his breaking point Jeremy drags Jensen from a protest to identify the body to convince Jensen that Wick is still alive and his personality will return to normal but his plan backfires as the body did turn out to be Wick. Jeremy is now faced with two of his friends dying under what he would consider to be suspicious circumstances.
Jeremy also begins to notice strange things at work with people beginning to act suspiciously, especially where Andrea’s death is concerned. He learns that FASS is being bought and Andrea had sort him out but he opted not to meet her that night. He also learns Coburn had told his men not to phone the police to keep the death quiet from the media but Jeremy feels something is off about the conversation although all the information seems correct. I loved Jeremy’s steadfast and determined nature, but I did feel despite his strict military background he seems to let his emotions take over him which is understandable given the circumstances but didn’t really fit with the rest of personality traits. The deeper Jensen delves into this mystery the more question he and us the readers are left with. This is an extremely well used plot device as it will keep people reading until the end to uncover the truth but can be overused. Hannah by contrast has used multiple over used plot troupes in a fresh and exciting way by combining with who done it with multiple murders and several conspiracy theories. By this point I am dying to find out who is responsible for Andrea’s death. We do find out who killed Wick as they are also targeting Jensen as he is putting information on his blog certain people want to remain anonymous, this information doesn’t just relate to past military missions but also current ones. We the readers and Jeremy are trying desperately to piece together the jigsaw before someone else falls victim to this deadly game of cat and mouse.
As we approach the half way point in the novel we see Jeremy is conflicted between investigating his friends death which is leading no where and keeping his family together. Jensen has basically gone AWOL injuring the pleading of his wife and the needs of his young son, Jeremy sees its as his responsibility to bring his brother in law home as he was the one who introduced Jensen and Wick in the first place. One thing I did feel slightly disappointed at is that we are half way through the book and almost nothing has happened in Andrea’s murder/suicide investigation, we haven’t even had one tiny bit of information to keep us going it if the secondary story line which does this although I’m sure things will become clearer towards the end of the book. I loved how Hannah plays the conspiracy theory angle a lot ask with different objective although the 9/11 conspiracy theory he worked in I didn’t enjoy reading purely because of what happened but I didn’t let this stop me enjoying the story. I also felt conflicted over Jeremy’s shifting objectives as one minute he is focused on Andrea’s supposed suicide and the next he is focused on Jensen. I am not sure whether these two objectives intertwine or how each story line will play out but I just feel as a reader we are being tossed about and at times its extremely confusing, I hope the author will provide some clarity very soon. I also want to see where the introductory chapter comes into play.
I loved how Hannah kind of defused the tension a little by adding a slight romantic element between Jeremy and Elizabeth which was a nice change of pace in this novel. Despite the majority of the book being really fast paced and action packed this book isn’t a quick read as there is a lot of information to wrap your head around, like all the conspiracy theories, the mysterious deaths and all the family issues in Jeremy’s life. Jeremy’s life then takes another turn for the worst when Barrow, his boss from FASS and a few hired goons jump him and once again Gene, a pal from his Ranger days is there to save his skin. Again the story takes an unexpected and confusing twist as Jeremy is being hunted as Jensen is being watched while both try to solve their own respective and possibly intertwined investigations. With Elizabeth’s help Jeremy gets his first proper lead in Andrea’s case courtesy of the GPS watch all FASS’ security staff wear so now they have access to all her credit card transactions and all the places she had been in the past few months. Jeremy also comes to a compromise with Jensen by asking Jensen to fill him in on all the details in return for protection if sports for him, which strongly Jensen agrees to. So with less than 90 pages to go I was seriously doubting whether Hannah can wrap this novel up neatly and answer all the remained questions or will it be left on a cliff hanger requiring a second novel to tie up the loose ends.
By the time we enter the final section of the novel Jensen and Jeremy have reached an accord after Jeremy received a second warning from Gene to reign Jensen in. And then BAM the prologue chapter comes into play. So we see what happens just before that explosion and what happens after. But after escaped the explosion Jeremy realizes the one thing he could have avoided that Jensen now knows the truth about something he shouldn’t and has to be silenced. While no closer to finding what happened to Andrea, he now has to keep Jensen alive. While this book has been a bit of slow burn for the majority of the novel, the tension, suspense and pace of the novel has been ramped up to the maximum. Jensen when confronted is willing to die in order to get the truth out and Jeremy also discovers from Andrea’s mother that she had been dating someone at FASS and most including Elizabeth assumed it was Jeremy, could this be the reason for her death or was it just a suicide? With less than 40 pages to go now and I was seriously concerned about the ending.
The last 40 pages of this novel were stunning as many things are revealed like Andrea’s probably although not conclusive killer, which he achieved with Elizabeth’s help. The conclusion of the Jensen story line was the best for me as I wasn’t expecting Jeremy to do what he did and it took me completely by surprise and despite my reservations Hannah managed to wrap up both story arcs nicely although I felt the end of the Jensen story line needed a little bit more on the ending but it did satisfy me as a reader. My favorite part of the novel was the ending of the Jensen story line as it just blew me away and I was not expecting it and the relationship between Jensen and Jeremy up to this point had been in decline but I just wasn’t expecting this. I was expecting Jensen to step away from his investigation and try to move on from it but in the final chapters we see the extent of Jensen’s personality change and even though it was unexpected it was the inevitable outcome. My favorite character by far was Elizabeth. I just loved her personality she was seriously and sensible but not to the point of it being constant like with Jeremy, she has a care free side which we see regularly. I also liked the way she and Jeremy were a perfect fit together and how their lighter scene provide some relief from the rest of the novel and also inject a few moments on humor.
Overall I would recommend this book to crime, military and conspiracy readers. I would also recommend this book to anyone who wanted to read a different take on the traditional who dun it novel. I can guarantee this book will keep you guessing until the very last page hanging on every single word.
This book was sent to me for review consideration by the author
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