Paul E. Hardisty – The Abrupt Physics of Dying

Clay Straker is staring down the barrel of a gun, wondering what drives a kid to this point. He’s being held with his friend and is confused about what these people want from them. This is the way Paul E. Hardisty opens this excellent book about an oil company engineer working in Yemen.

Clay soon meets Al-Shams, who talks of the damage he believes the Petro-Tex company is doing. Al-Shams is saying that their work is causing illness in a local village and he wants Clay to help find out what exactly is causing the problems. If he doesn’t agree to this his friend Abdulkader will likely suffer a terrible fate. When he goes back to his superiors he doesn’t report on what happened as he doesn’t want to endanger Abdulkader.

Hardisty has created a complex character, a man stripped of his South African passport and sent into exile. He questions why people have faith in a higher power as he’s seen people praying and fall by the wayside. Faith is something that comes up time and again in the book, with people carrying out acts in the name of religion or feeling that their fate is predecided and fear is pointless.

None of his relationships with women have lasted for very long but he falls for Rania, a journalist who has surprised him by delving into his past. He struggles to think of a more beautiful woman and this relationships appears to see him travelling on a road he’s never along before. They try to uncover the truth about the actions of Petro-Tex but of course they’re facing a deadly struggle against a major corporation and vested interests.

Clay witness horrific shootings and we come to realise that he has seen many terrible things over the course of his life, events that recur and haunt him and will surely continue to do so for the rest of his days. When he uses a weapon he described it as being like a drug and it doesn’t feel right that a life can be taken so quickly.

This is an excellent thriller that sees Clay crossing many different lands in his pursuit of the truth. Far from being your average page-turner, Hardisty has a superb command of language, creating evocative images of land which many will be unfamiliar with. The issues covered are very contemporary with seemingly impossible battles against overbearing figures and organisations. It’s an exciting, absorbing and provocative stormer.

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