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A year ago Thorn's son, Flynn Moss, disappeared into the eco-underground, his only contact with Thorn a series of postcards chronicling his exploits. But a postcard arrives unlike the others, a call for help, Thorn jumps into action, setting off for North Carolina. But before Thorn arrives, he’s intercepted by a federal agent who informs him he’s too late—Flynn had been acting as an informant for the FBI, and when his traitorous acts were discovered, he was summarily executed.
The agent proposes a scheme to catch Flynn's killer using Thorn as bait. Thorn, full of rage, accepts the job if only to get his hands on his son's killer. The mission takes him to a small town where the gang is holed up, planning an attack on a hog farming operation that has been polluting local rivers and spreading illness through the area.
Little by little Thorn discovers that nothing he’s been told is true, and the trap they’re setting isn't for Flynn's killer, but for his partner, a woman who proves more daring and dangerous than any Thorn's ever met. She's on her own crusade of vengeance, and she and Thorn make an uneasy alliance. With her help Thorn uncovers a conspiracy that stretches far beyond this small Carolina town.
Heart-pounding...Hall keeps the tension mounting as motives and alliances shift with the foul-scented wind. Even as violence looms, Hall's talent for description adds a balancing, poetical note.
As always, Hall combines absurdist mayhem with remarkably subtle character interaction. Thorn...makes a fine avenging angel.
The John D. MacDonald of The Green Ripper meets the Upton Sinclair of The Jungle. Better get your fill of ham and bacon before you start this one.
The Washington Post:
Are you one of those loyal crime-fiction fans whose good taste and hard cash help propel each new offering from Michael Connelly, John Sandford and Lee Child onto the bestseller lists? There’s nothing wrong with that: They’re talented fellows. Still, after you’ve devoured five or 10 Harry Bosch, Lucas Davenport or Jack Reacher adventures, how much more are you likely to learn about the heroes' mettle or their creators' skill?
Why not live dangerously and seek new thrills? There are legions of lesser-known, but not necessarily less-talented, novelists out there, eager to entertain you. One good example is James W. Hall, author of The Big Finish.
Hall isn't a new face. He's published a bunch of novels and won the Edgar and Shamus awards. I reviewed one of his books a few years ago and enjoyed it, but that didn't prepare me for the excellence of this one, a tough-minded tale of love, violence and duplicity.
Brisk pacing keeps the tension high in The Big Finish with each twist and turn. Hall continues to show new sides of his perennial hero Thorn, who he has been writing about since his 1987 debut, Under Cover of Daylight. Hall again delivers a solid story with The Big Finish.
Gloria Felt, Crimespree Magazine:
Hall has been called a master of Florida Noir, a reputation only enhanced by this newest entry in the series, which is highly recommended.
Open Letters Monthly:
The Big Finish is vintage Hall. He's a painter with words. He's a poet who can evoke the horrific with a lyric voice. Not to be missed – and that's an order.
The Naples Florida Weekly:
The Big Finish is another extraordinary performance by a contemporary master of suspense, characterization and setting. That it alerts us to abominations in our midst only attaches more value to this highly entertaining and tightly plotted romp.
The Florida Times-Union:
Always poetic, author Hall finds goodness and beauty in a very messy situation. To avoid collateral damage (loss of jobs, homes, family), even the most radical environmental activists search for positive solutions — fixing without destroying is the message. But make no mistake, Hall has not gone soft in his old age. Thorn is as deadly as ever.
Although Hall's plot travels a twisting path among drug dealers, rural black tenant farmers, Mexican farm workers and rogue FBI agents, he's a pro who knows that his out-there characters and plots need to be grounded in a fluid narrative and a protagonist who lives as true to his own code as circumstances permit. Thorn is such a man, and The Big Finish is another slick addition to his chronicles.
Tampa Bay Times:
The Big Finish, the 14th novel by James W. Hall about reclusive Florida knight-errant Thorn, is a wonderfully relentless high-octane thriller. But let me warn you: It will put you off your pork chops.
Like all of Hall’s work, his latest thriller boasts a page-turner of a plot, fully realized characters and lyrical prose. But the biggest lure of his fiction is his examination of moral issues, not only in black and white but also in numerous shades of gray. Clever and cinematic, “The Big Finish” explores, entertains and educates.
BookPage ("Best Mystery for December"):
Novels are often described as “character-driven” or “plot-driven”; the Thorn novels are rage-driven. Thorn will bear a lot with equanimity, but if you incur his serious ire, step back—no, scratch that, run away as fast as you can.”
[The Big Finish has] more switchbacks than a mountain road.