The Evolution of Fear is Paul E. Hardisty's second novel featuring South African former soldier Claymore Straker following the CWA Awards New Blood Dagger nominated The Abrupt Physics of Dying. Straker is now a fugitive, both from the law as a suspected Islamic terrorist and murderer and from shadier characters after revenge. The novel starts with him hiding out in a cottage in Cornwall, separated again from his lover, journalist Rania. Hardisty doesn't seem to write slow burning novels and so like the first book we are soon thrust into the action as Claymore believes he has been betrayed and once again finds his life in danger, he is forced to flee, first to Istanbul and later to Cyprus. The Evolution of Fear is an eco thriller again, this time the action centres around land developments and the conservation of turtles. While it wouldn't be unfair to say the book contains a few thriller tropes - the physically and psychologically damaged hero who seems to be able to keep going despite being badly hurt; the women (Rania and new character Dr Hope Bachmann) though intelligent and courageous are still also there as beautiful women and therefore objects of desire for the male characters, and Rania does have a bit of the Princess Peach about her, the perpetual kidnap victim - however, Hardisty writes so well that it's easy to see past them. Make no mistake this is no quick and easy read, taking in as it does international politics, conservation, corruption, PTSD, war crimes, justice and retribution. With such a broad ranging and complex story it's imperative that you trust the author and you are never in any doubt that Hardisty has done his research. It's believable then but also beautifully written despite often being brutal and uncompromising. There is a powerful, almost Lear-esque scene near the beginning of the book where Straker is on a boat in a storm where the author juxtaposes the external elements and the chaotic weather system of his mind as he recalls not just the events in Yemen that led to his separation from Rania and the loss of his hand but also his earlier life in Angola and his involvement in a brutal massacre there,
"Clay stood a moment, bucket hanging in hand, feet planted wide against the roll, water sloshing around his thighs, tilted his head back and stared up into the swirling sky. Then he opened his mouth wide and screamed above the wind, howling his defiance."
With The Evolution of Fear Hardisty has written a book that doesn't sacrifice action for realism or truth for thrills, it's an exhilarating , confident and intelligent book that leaves its readers thinking and questioning what they think they know. I'm very pleased to see that there will be more from Clay Straker in Reconciliation of the Dead, due to be published in 2017.
Many thanks to Orenda Books for my copy of The Evolution of Fear received in return for my honest review.