Review by Frank Plowright
As might be expected from his exploits in the film franchise, which occurred later in his New York police career, John McClane hit the ground running. In fact as recounted in volume one, it’s doubtful any cop has had either as an eventful or successful first day on the job. Howard Chaykin’s fast-paced script manoeuvred McClane through what would become well-travelled action paths, providing thrills and suspense. He replicates that formula here.
We’re a year and a week on from the previous book’s Bicentennial celebrations and McClane is now partnered with Olga Cruces. As the city’s cops are on alert to track down the killer labelled Son of Sam, McClane and Cruces are tasked with ending a series of robberies affecting massage parlours. As he did previously, Chaykin spends the opening chapter introducing the diverse and seemingly unconnected cast who’ll be drawn together to form the story. It’s an engaging one, making good use of a historical event that’s telegraphed from early in the second chapter. The results of it see McClane, who was confident of bringing a situation to rapid resolution, working in the dark as Chaykin exploits fears recurring from childhood and reinforced during a term in Vietnam.
New artist Gabriel Andrade Jr works in a moderately less realistic style to begin with, and doesn’t match the quality of Stephen Thompson’s previous work. His characters lack weight, and he doesn’t put quite the same effort into ensuring New York’s streets look busy, a problem as the scripts specifically set multiple scenes in them. Beyond that, he’s fine, and the recurring motif of childhood, Vietnam and present day is memorable.
Chaykin’s plot involves several action sequences and one big problem, but everything’s otherwise on a smaller scale than both the movies and the previous book. That’s no bad thing, as there are aspects of the Die Hard movies that strain credulity, while Chaykin keeps this well within the bounds of possibility and cranks up the tension by exploiting McClane’s fears. The dialogue is whip smart, and there are notable individual touches such as the manner in which one culprit ensures he’s never consistently recognised, while Chaykin saves a clever twist for the end. Andrade Jr’s art doesn’t match Thompson, but the compensation is an even better crime story from Chaykin the second time around.