Ever heard the expression “Out of the frying pan, into the fire”? Yeah, that pretty much sums up Charlie Hardie’s life.
When we last saw Charlie at the end of Fun & Games he was in bad shape, having just been through two hellacious days culminating in a shootout of epic proportions which left him battered, bleeding and on the brink of death.
Picking up right where Fun & Games left off, Hell & Gone opens with Charlie in the back of an ambulance being whisked off for life saving treatment. Unfortunately for Charlie his destination isn’t a legitimate hospital, but a facility where the “Accident People” – the shadow organization Charlie ran afoul of in Fun & Games – nurse Charlie back to health in order for him to serve their agenda.
Waking after an indeterminate amount of time, Charlie finds himself in a concrete bunker faced with an ultimatum: try to leave and die, or get in the elevator and ride it down to… well, Charlie’s not exactly sure where. Not wanting to die, obviously, he takes the elevator ride and ends up in a highly secrete, ultra secure prison facility far underground which he is informed holds the most dangerous prisoners in the world. Much to his amazement Charlie has not been sent there to join their ranks, but to become the facility’s warden.
Knowing he must escape from the inescapable facility in order to protect his family from the Accident People, Charlie begins feeling out not only the guards but the prisoners as well. During that process he begins to question whether it’s really the prisoners or the guards that pose the real threat, as no one is who they initially appear to be on the surface. What unfolds from that setup is a high octane, mind-bending adventure that only author Duane Swierczynski could have penned.
As he did in Fun & Games, Swierczynski shows himself once again to be a master of pacing, though here he downshifts gears somewhat to tremendous effect. If Fun & Games played out like a series of never-ending, rapid-fire machine gun attacks, Hell & Gone is the equivalent of a few very strategically placed bunker busters. Where Fun & Games unfolded at a breakneck pace that left both Charlie and the reader gasping for breath, Hell & Gone uses Charlie’s creeping sense of frustration and confusion to slowly build to an almost unbearable level of tension.
You’ll find yourself as off-guard as Charlie when Swierczynski rolls out twist after twist, and his depiction of the isolation of the cramped and oppressive subterranean facility is so realistic you’ll get claustrophobia just reading about it. Of course there being a third book in the series and the main character being nicknamed “Unkillable Chuck” it’s not exactly a spoiler to say that Charlie manages to find a way out of the facility. But just how he does it – and where he ends up – you’ll have to read for yourself to find out. Just remember that expression, “Out of the frying pan, into the fire.”
It takes a truly talented author to make going to hell sound like fun, but Swierczynski is unquestionably a silver-penned devil. Trust me on this, you definitely want to get yourself Hell & Gone.
Hell & Gone is available from Mulholland Books (ISBN: 978-0316133296). The final book in the Charlie Hardie series, Point & Shoot, is scheduled for April 2013. And if you want an idea of what being Hell & Gone sounds like, check out Duane’s guest post from yesterday where he shared the (imaginary) soundtrack for the book.