I like spy thrillers and stories of terrorist hunters and the like. Sometimes, it’s called military fiction, although it’s not always about soldiers. Think Tom Clancy’s books or Mark Greaney’s Gray Man series. I recently had a chance to read and review a new book “Goodbye Paris,” by Mike Bond, the third book in his Pono Hawkins series about a former Special Forces soldier-turned-surfer. In this story, Pono is called by an old friend to Paris to help him track down a terrorist who had once captured and tortured them. Somehow, Pono is the only man alive who can visually identify the terrorist. When he gets to Paris, everything has gone wrong and now he has to scramble to save individuals and Paris itself while getting both the girl and revenge.
I can tell that Mike Bond is a poet. His word choice and the way he structures the narrative have that rhythm and flow, which makes the book all the more interesting to read, especially given its 1st-person viewpoint. That 1st person narrator is another strong point because it limits how much we can know about what’s really going on and keeps us as off-balance as the main character, Pono. The action was also well done, written so as to be clearly understood what was happening.
My reservation, what keeps me from giving the book top grades, is its bleak worldview. It’s so relentlessly defeatist and negative about Islam and France and, well, everything. Yes, things are bad, but so bad? This is illustrated by how Bond portrays the fire at Notre Dame, which in the story happened before the action begins. (As an aside, I’m not sure if this was quickly inserted after the real fire or it’s an incredible coincidence.) In Bond’s telling, Notre Dame was destroyed by terrorists, burned out, demolished into a stone shell, all of its timeless artistic and spiritual glory gone. So depressing. But in reality, Notre Dame was damaged, badly, but all of her most important treasures survived and remain for us today. The world of Pono Hawkins is a sadder one than ours.
Another ding, from my point of view, is the unnecessary amount of sexual detail. I’m no prude; I’m a married dad of five. I don’t need the sex to be described to me if you tell me they had sex. Otherwise, it’s just indulging adolescent male fantasy.
The characters apart from Pono were fine, albeit they didn’t stray too far from stereotype. The aggressive female cop, the weary bureaucrat, and so on.
Nevertheless, I still give the book four out of five stars because the premise was interesting and the plotting and action were compelling enough to keep me wanting to come back to the book and find out what’s next, how it will be resolved, and who lives and dies.