Joshua Hood

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Adam Hayes is living and working as a carpenter in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, his life far from perfect, but a far cry from his time in Treadstone, the top-secret CIA Black Ops programme that trained him, and many like him, to be unstoppable killing machines. When he receives an email from an old friend from his days on the programme, an email that contains photos which seem to be evidence of…something, everything changes. Within hours, he has been attacked at work, and is on the run for his life, a team of trained killers dogging his every move. Adam Hayes must dig deep inside and remember the training that he has long-since buried in order to stay alive and answer the cry for help from his old friend.

I was the tender age of about fourteen when I discovered Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity (believe it or not, after watching my mother’s perennial favourite, Richard Chamberlain, in the title role in Roger Young’s excellent 1988 miniseries), and read it over the course of a couple of days, in an empty house, with Queen’s Greatest Hits cassette on repeat on the living room’s hifi (ah yes, the heyday of the early 1990s). It was a gloriously-conceived world, and an excellent thriller with an element of mystery, and a protagonist that we were never quite sure we could trust. If your only experience of Bourne is the Matt Damon vehicle that kicked off the recent revival of one of Ludlum’s finest novels, I’d urge you to go back to the source or, at the very least, Richard Chamberlain’s gloriously hammy portrayal.

So, it was with some trepidation, and not a little excitement, that I picked up Joshua Hood’s The Treadstone Resurrection, the first novel in a series that focuses on the men who, like Jason Bourne, were trained by the mysterious CIA Black Ops programme as killers and ass-kickers. It didn’t take long, I’m afraid, for the excitement to turn to dread, the trepidation to some small degree warranted as what unfolds is a linear, step-by-step-by-step, largely uninspired thriller saved only by the reasonably likeable protagonist who is, thankfully, more than just a cookie-cutter copy of the original Bourne.

Now, it’s not all bad. Really. Books like The Treadstone Resurrection have their place: it’s certainly a thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride, and it’s the type of book perfect for bite-sized consumption, a chapter here and a chapter there. It doesn’t require much thought because, let’s face it, there’s no real element of mystery, so it’s the perfect read for when we don’t want to think about what we’re reading too much, or are looking for something undemanding but eminently entertaining. It’s the Netflix binge-watch (or, given the connection, that should probably be Amazon Prime) of reading, and I’m sure there are many readers who will think I’m being snobby or elitist, but that’s definitely not the case. I’m a sucker for a balls-to-the-wall thriller as much as the next man, but I prefer my thrillers with at least a little substance.

Fast-paced as it is, it doesn’t take long to discover Hood’s most irritating trait: the flashback. I lost count of the number of times that the author paused the main action to flash back – in real time – to some other occasion that might help us to understand who these people are. In most cases, a sentence might have done the same job without disrupting the flow and made for a leaner, more elegant novel.

I’m really sorry I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped and I’m left wondering whether Robert Ludlum would have been happy to have his name on the cover. Better, perhaps, to go back to Ludlum’s excellent thrillers and consign Treadstone to the archives.

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