ONLY TO DIE AGAIN by PATRICK LEE (2015, Penguin, 375pp) ∗∗∗
Blurb: A DESPERATE PLEA FOR HELP The middle of the night. Sam Dryden takes a call from an old friend from his days in the military. She needs his help. Urgently. There’s no further explanation. A RACE AGAINST TIME Two hours later, Dryden and his former teammate smash their way in to a remote desert shack. Inside they discover four young girls, caged and threatened with death by their abductor. Dryden acts. AN IMPOSSIBLE SECRET But how had Dryden’s friend known what about to unfold? Why was it so important that they flee the scene before the police arrive? Only one thing is certain: Dryden is now facing a ruthless enemy that always seems to be one step ahead . . .
Time paradox stories are generally hard to pull off due to the huge potential for plot holes, contrivances and loose ends. This book, whilst being expertly written and generating a good deal of suspense, is no exception to the rule. Lee is a very accomplished writer of action scenes and paces his novel expertly, but I can’t shake the feeling of it all being a little pointless with an abundance of future scenarios played out creating confusion, despite the relatively simple core plot.
The opening of the book is the best section and creates much intrigue, but once the core McGuffin of the plot is revealed, the book quickly starts to resemble a race-against-time sci-fi action thriller movie. Sam Dryden is the functional action hero, a war vet who manages to dodge every bullet imaginable. The reveal of the true villain of the piece comes as little surprise given the few options presented. That said, the book’s welcome brevity and fast pace meant it managed to hold my interest through to its rather predictable finale.
In the US the book was released under the title of SIGNAL and is the second book in the Sam Dryden series, following 2014’s RUNNER.