The Guise of Another - Allen Eskens

“The Guise Of Another” was a very disappointing read. It was a book I persevered with rather than savoured.

It started as a fairly conventional police procedural novel, albeit with the original premise of finding that the victim of a fatal car accident had been living “in the guise of another”. The police procedural part lasted for a (very slow) first hour or so and then the book took a left turn into thriller land.

The idea was interesting but the characters were so clichéd I’m sure you’ll have met them before. Imagine a gone-to-seed, corrupt, American arms dealer, running a decades long scam on the Department of Defense. Then add the stone-cold killer from Serbia who acts as his muscle. Got a clear picture of both of them? Not hard is it? Not that interesting either, sadly.

The book livened up a little when our policeman hero goes to New York and meets a woman detective who at least feels real on the page.

After that, the plot moves along with the heroes slowly pulling together the pieces of the puzzle while the Serbian killing machine follows behind them like the Terminator, wiping out various people I’m supposed to care about.

Part of what kept me at arms length from this book is that the main policeman is a difficult man to sypathise with.  He's under investigation for corruption. His marriage is falling apart. He is easily distracted by women and has a moral compass that switches off for long periods of time. He is only interesting because his brother, who he describes as: "a better version of me", is an effective cop, unsullied by corruption.

The plot devices are clever. The action scenes are engaging. The pacing is often a little off. The characters read like a first draft rather than real people. The language and the imagery are functional and pedestrian.

Apart from the satisfaction of solving the puzzle and seeing if any of the good guys manage to survive, I really didn’t care about the events in this book or the people they were happening to.

What made this so disappointing is that I bought "The Guise Of Another" because I fell in love with Eskens' first novel, "The Life We Bury", which was a beautifully written thriller with well-rounded characters.

“The Guise Of Another” is listed (I think, wrongly) as the next book in the series. In reality it shares one character with the previous book and nothing much else.

If “The Guise Of Another” had been the first Eskens book I’d read, I wouldn’t be rushing to buy the next. Now I’m undecided as to whether or not to buy the third book in the “series”, “The Heavens May Fall”. If it’s as good as “The Life We Bury”, then it’s a must read. If it’s like “The Guise Of Another”, then I have a whole TBR pile that I will read first.