Today is day four of Hardisty Week, part of our Year of Orenda celebration, and I’ll be taking a look back at my thoughts on book four in the Claymore Straker series by Paul E. Hardisty, Absolution. I have absolutely loved reading this series and it was a bitter sweet feeling seeing it draw to a close, but a totally fitting ending for Straker too. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
It’s 1997, and eight months since vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker fled South Africa after his explosive testimony to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In Paris, Rania LaTour, Claymore’s former lover, comes home to find that her son and her husband, a celebrated human rights lawyer, have disappeared.
On an isolated island off the coast of East Africa, the family that Clay has befriended is murdered as he watches.
So begins the fourth instalment in the Claymore Straker series, a breakneck journey through the darkest reaches of the human soul, as Clay and Rania fight to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances and murders, and find those responsible.
Relentlessly pursued by those who want them dead, they must work together to uncover the truth, and to find a way to survive in a world gone mad.
At times brutal, often lyrical, but always gripping, Absolution is a thriller that will leave you breathless and questioning the very basis of how we live and why we love.
It is really hard to put into words why I have enjoyed this series so much. On the face of it, this is a straight forward action thriller, good guys against bad – lone wolf against the might and power of the political and commercial machine. It has all the elements to keep hardcore action thriller fans happy, and yet it is so much more than that. To brand it that way would be to belie the heart and soul of what has been written.
We join Staker some months after he has fled South Africa having given testimony as to the atrocities he witnessed during the war to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Far from the forgiveness and freedom Straker had hoped to achieve, he is a man on the run, not just from the authorities but from the political and powerful business entities who would see him pay for his betrayal. Anyone he comes close to is potentially prey and Straker has to weigh up the cost of his own happiness over the risk to others. Meanwhile, Rania, the only woman he has ever come close to loving is finding her own world shattered as her family is taken from her. Her search for the truth will see the pair at long last reunited but at what cost?
In writing the Claymore Straker series, Paul Hardisty has managed to strike a beautiful balance between developing a story with a strong socio-political and environmental message and one which is entertaining and compelling, pulling the reader in and holding their attention from start to finish. It is so hard to explain it, but somehow he has managed to take the stark facts of a continent in turmoil, of conflicts which have spanned decades and prejudices which have grown and manifested in people from birth, and bring them to life on the page. Much of what is written is based in fact, in real events which have blighted many areas of Africa through the eighties and nineties, but Hardisty has given them a fresh spin, providing readers with a gripping story on which to focus, even as the truth lies barely concealed beneath. Some of the embellishments may be exactly that, but they are grounded in that harsh reality, a scary element of truth threaded into every page.
Claymore Straker is almost an anti-hero. He is far from faultless, and part of the beauty of his character lies in the blend of honour, duty and guilt he feels with every decision he makes, every death which comes either at his hand or as a result of his actions. He is flawed, truly flawed, damaged both physically and mentally, his scars running far deeper than those which are plainly visible. And yet he is one of the most compelling characters I have read in a long while. His physical and mental strength hides a certain kind of vulnerability which informs both his character and his decision making. He is most definitely blinded by his feelings for Rania, no matter how much he fears giving his heart to her, and this is never more evident than in this book. The road he travels is perilous and yet he does so willingly. Betrayed by those he trusts and finding allies in the most unlikely of places, Straker is someone I would willingly follow until the end of his journey.
But this book is not all about Straker. Rania has as much of a part to play in this tale as he does. Although a good portion of her story is told through journal entries as she writes a message to Straker that she fears he may never hear, you can feel her strength and determination grow with every page turn. She is not a weak willed person, one to whom dark things happen which she chooses to just accept. She is a force to be reckoned with and a symbol for the strong matriarch, a theme which is mirrored throughout much of the novel. In that respect, much of what has been written is a celebration of the power of the female spirit, the fortitude and guile of those who grace the pages as much as it is a straight forward action thriller.
The language used in this novel is quite beautiful, the imagery as evocative as it is often stark and shocking and used to brilliant effect throughout. It manages to convey a powerful message without appearing overly preaching in its execution. You will feel every strike as it hits home, each gradually escalating emotion pulled from the reader with every new paragraph. Moments of introspection blend seamlessly with heart thumping action, each one allowing the story to build to a final, shocking showdown set against a backdrop of devastating, and very real, loss. It really is quite something.
If you are looking for literature’s answer to ‘Guns and Ammo’ style action, then this probably isn’t the book for you. If you are looking for a beautifully crafted action thriller, strengthened by its ability to possess heart, mind and soul – well you’ve come to the right place. I’m only sad we have to say goodbye to Straker but I can’t think of a better way to do it than this.
About the Author
Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer,
hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.
Author Links: Twitter
Books by Paul E. Hardisty