I love heading into my local bookstore and browsing the remaindered aisle — you know, those unloved books that are now on sale for a fraction of what they cost as newly released hardcovers. That’s how I came across Jonathon King’s Eye of Vengeance (2006, Orion) earlier this year.
It’s a thriller, although an unconventional one in some ways. Its protagonist is Nick Mullins, a veteran crime reporter for the South Florida Daily News. Squint just a little and you can see the paper is based (at least in part) on the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
Eye does its job as a thriller, and it was certainly worth the six bucks I paid for it in hardback. There are better thrillers out there, but the thrill wasn’t what drew me in. The parts of the book that rang truest are the chapters where Mullins must deal with an editor whose job isn’t really about editing — it’s about damage control and keeping the higher-ups out of her office. If you’re a journalist (or a former one, like me), you’ll immediately bond with Mullins in his frustration with the changing milieu of newspapers and their management. Mullins is a man who has lost most of the lines tethering him to his life. His wife and one of his children were killed in an accident — an accident at which he arrived in his duties as a reporter. That’s a nightmare scenario for anyone who’s ever covered breaking news.
For what it’s worth, the author knows what he’s talking about. King is a longtime newspaper journalist in South Florida.
Mullins is a well thought-out character, and the book was a fun read. The writing is strong, as are the main character and the antagonist. Supporting characters are fairly stock, and could’ve used some more fleshing out. If you’re looking for a whodunit, this won’t be your cup of tea. King instead tries to focus on “why” and not so much “who” if that makes sense. The results are mixed, but I applaud the effort.