Ghostman Already Needs a Reboot?

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Title: Vanishing Games

Rating: 3 Stars

You might have noticed that I seem to be reading a lot of crime / action genre novels lately. For the last ten years, I’ve been a runner. I usually run two to three times a week. I’m not very good; I neither run great distances nor at any impressive speed. It’s something that I do to fight off (as much as I can!) the decline of age.

When I run, I listen to music or to podcasts. I’ve never done books on tape. I’m not sure why; I guess the purist in me that hesitates to read books digitally (although I do it on occasion now) also thinks that listening to books is somehow a form of cheating. I like to read the words and materialize everything in my mind. Hearing a dramatic reading of it would seem to remove just a little bit of my own creativity from the process. The problem now is that I have sore feet. I finally went to a doctor and I’ve been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. I’m now icing my feet, doing stretching, and going to PT. It could be a couple of months before I can run again.

My back-up cardiovascular workout is a stationary bike. I find riding a bike tedious. When I do ride, I read a book. I once tried to read a classic while riding, but that turned quickly into a fiasco because I really couldn’t concentrate. So, when I ride a bike, I tends towards crime and action books. The bottom line is that there’s going to be a larger number than usual genre books in my feed.

On to Vanishing Games. This is a sequel to Ghostman. Ghostman was a great read. You have a character named Jack. He is a ghostman (duh!). The ghostman is a criminal whose specialty is, after a heist is performed, to set up the escape for all of the participants. Not only the escape route, but also false identities. He’s in charge of the getaway.

Jack himself is a cypher. No one knows his real name. No one knows his background. He is, in fact, the ultimate ghostman.

In this novel, Jack is bored and languishing between crimes. He gets an urgent call from a woman that he knows as Angela, who was his mentor. She is the only person that knows his real name and his real story. At an early point in his criminal career, she takes him under her wing and teaches him how to become a ghostman.

She is now under dire threat herself. She is now a jugmarker, the master planner behind the crime. One of her crimes has gone seriously awry and now she needs help. Jack comes to her aid and together, in a series of exciting scenes, they fight off a hit man and members of a Chinese gang that both want them dead.

This is a pure adrenaline shot of a book. Don’t worry too much about plot subtleties. It just moves from one action piece to another. It’s set in a very compressed time frame, so no  one ever sleeps or rests. From the moment Angela contacts Jack, it’s pretty much pure action.

It’s a great read while you’re riding a bike and need to stay motivated and/or distracted. The main issue that I have with it is that it’s pretty much the same story as Ghostman. In both cases, even casinos are involved. It’s all about fancy clothes, fancy boats, and possibly insider criminal knowledge (I wouldn’t know, not being a criminal, so can’t say for sure).

I just didn’t see anything too much new here. It reminded me of the Roger Moore James Bond films. Can anyone really tell me the difference between The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only?

One of the huge challenges of writers that are doing a series is keeping it fresh. It was disappointing to me that already in the second story it’s already feeling a little stale.

Let’s hope that this was just a sophomore jinx and that he’ll pick it up. After all, Lee Child can’t write forever!

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