Review by Frank Plowright
Blood for Blood’s cover is inspired by the cover and inner sleeve art of the 1976 Ohio Players album Honey, and presented as a tongue in cheek reference, but there’s no irony here, just objectification. It represents the troubling throwback attitude to women found in the first Gun Honey where a super capable spy and assassin of the Black Widow type is also prone to seductively draping herself naked around the furniture, not coyly as in Modesty Blaise, but gratuitously. All men remain clothed.
Joanna Tan’s troubled past and her career as a weapons smuggler was detailed in the previous book, but claiming her revenge wasn’t without cost and that comes back to haunt her when she’s framed by an equally capable agent. The set-up ensures powerful people outside the law are looking for her as well as the authorities, and it’s not as if her direct enemy won’t take a pop at her either.
Ignore the exploitative elements and this is another smartly crafted action thriller from Charles Ardai and Ang Hor Kheng. Ardai’s plot stretches credulity in the manner of a James Bond film, but never skirts breaking point, while providing the technology, weapons and locations for Kheng to ensure an excitingly glamorous world. It is a world by the way, as the entire planet is Joanna’s playground. Kheng is the complete talent, and other than willingness to draw exploitative scenes it’s difficult to find a weakness to his art. He’s definitely someone to look out for in the future.
Ardai has a longer track record, surprisingly not all in crime fiction, but Blood for Blood is plotted to watertight standards and changes the relationship between Joanna and Brook, the US government agent prone to helping her out. Given the cover, you’ll know for yourself if the overall quality outweighs the gratuitous elements for you.