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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

HIT LIST By Jack Heath. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2010

 Ash and Benjamin are teenage thieves working for a mysterious figure called Hammond Buckland. Actually, Ash is the one who does most of the running around; Benjamin is her admiring helper, who does the technical stuff.

Ash had started off as a straight thief, trying to get money to solve the family financial problems, but has started to feel guilty about it and is now only stealing things that have been stolen by others, to return them to their rightful owners…for a price.

Now, she and Benjamin will travel to the heart of the world’s top technology facility in response to an SOS from someone called Alice. Rescuing a kidnapped girl sounds good. The only trouble is, there are others who have the same goal and are prepared to kill to achieve it – and send in hit men and hit teams. And who is the Ghost even the hit team are terrified of?

It’s a nice, easy-to-read thriller for teenagers and I like that the author has written it from the girl’s viewpoint, meaning both girls and boys can enjoy it. I liked that Ash is not confident about her own attractions and doesn’t have friends apart from Benjamin. I liked that Benjamin was a nerdy type, not the usual athletic hunk. And wouldn’t we all like to imagine ourselves running around major places in the world, kicking ass?

You can really enjoy it if you’re prepared to suspend some disbelief. Like - telling your dad that you’re going for a sleepover at a friend’s place and to please pick you up from school next day and then travelling – without any paperwork whatsoever, it seems! – from Australia to the US and spending the next however many hours having adventures and being followed overseas by various other characters who are after you, who arrive in plenty of time to threaten you. (Time zones, anyone?) One of whom, by the way, has just been badly injured and really shouldn’t be out of bed?

But this probably says more about me and my attitude to thrillers than it does about the author or his editor. I have read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code which has sold millions of copies and was non-stop adventure and all I could think of, when I’d finished it, was that no one ever slept, ate or went to the bathroom in the 24 hours in which the book is set and no one seemed even remotely tired at the end. Thrillers are like that. Nobody would read them if they had people stop for a rest. Get over it, Sue.

So I’m just going to make one nitpick: the author has done a lot of research about the big things, but there are some small things that could have done with checking. As far as I know, alimony is very rare in Australia, can be paid to either partner depending on the circumstances, if they can’t support themselves, and child support is paid to the parent who has the child. Admittedly this is usually the mother, but in this case Ash lives with her father and at one point they discuss the alimony and child support he’s paying to her mother, who had left them and has a well-paid job. He’s clearly being ripped off here! Someone has not told Ash’s father the law, it seems.

Just a nitpick on my part. And of course, Ash’s home location is kept vague, but it’s not in the US and the terms used are mostly Australian.

This is the second of two novels (there’s also a short story), but I haven’t read the first. It pretty much stands alone, though I suspect it might be better to read the first one before this.

Go on, read it. It’s not too long for even a reluctant reader and it’s fun.

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