Fearless by M. W. Craven [6/10]

The Washington Poe procedural series, costarring geeky Tilly, now five books long, is one of the best extant mystery sets, and M. W. Craven displays a wonderful, smooth style with a distinctive voice. So Fearless, a standalone thriller (probably destined to be a series, although who knows?), firmly located in Jack Reacher territory, was hotly awaited. It stars Ben Koenig, a former star cop who is physically unable to feel fear, and now lives (hey, like Reacher!) off the grid. When the past rocks up to intrude, Koenig embarks on a rollercoaster, ultra-violent crusade to bring down the bad guys. The author again displays a fluent style, this time with a different voice, and the action scenes are choreographed wonderfully. All well and good, but whereas Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher voice” hits the spot as flat but lyrical, the voice in Fearless is (in my humble opinion) stupidly benign to the point where the kinetic plot begins to seem cartoonish. In other words, Ben Koenig out-Reachers Reacher, which should denote a triumph, but instead falls flat. Overall, Fearless is a mildly fun read but a stylistic fail.

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