07 December 2022

Review: Headcase by Jack Heath

Headcase by Jack Heath book cover

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

My favourite fictional cannibal Timothy Blake is back in the fourth instalment of the Blake series that began with Hangman, and continued on with Hunter (and my inclusion in the praise section) and Hideout. The latest is aptly titled Headcase and if you were concerned the talented Aussie author from Canberra might have lost his penchant for kick arse female characters, clever plots, skilful subterfuge, electrifying tension or tantalising riddles during the pandemic, you needn't have worried.

Headcase is a crime thriller with a refreshing difference. If you're a fan of the series, then this will deliver on all your bloody hopes and nightmarish expectations, but my advice is not to read the blurb. There's mention of an astronaut which initially made me roll my eyes as I'm not a fan of cartoonish hijinks when a character suddenly finds themselves in a thematically dissonant or cringeworthy situation. Fortunately the astronaut angle is free from cringe, and Blake has teamed up with a CIA handler by the name of Zara who is a force to be reckoned with, but certainly no replacement for Agent Thistle. Blake finds himself in therapy (hence the Headcase reference), yet he remains a charismatic anti-hero with no clear boundaries in terms of character motivation or development.

Fans will find a satisfying update since the events of Hideout (published in December 2020), and it was hard not to notice that since then, Heath seems to have continued honing his craft with the release of standalone crime novel Kill Your Brother in January this year, and is clearly in no danger of delivering a dud or running out of ways to make us gasp out loud.

In a recent review, I lamented that I might be reaching saturation point with regard to the number of emerging and existing Aussie crime authors, but Jack Heath is a clear exception to this - and any - rule. I also appreciated seeing praise from fellow Australian author Benjamin Stevenson as his book Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is a brilliant whodunnit which breaks the fourth wall and sits on the pile of potentials for my Top 5 Books of 2022 list.

Headcase by Jack Heath is an entertaining and finely crafted bloody mess recommended for fans of the series and crime thrillers more generally. As the year draws to a close and I begin to look back and assess my favourite reads of the year, it's hard not to consider Headcase for one of the prestigious five spots.

Highly recommended and you can read the first 22 pages of Headcase for FREE in this extract.

My Rating:

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