When readers meet Joe, a former Marine and ex-FBI agent who's now a freelance detective and hired gun, he's fighting off an attacker in an alley. After a tough altercation, Joe throws the assailant's body behind a dumpster, lifts his money clip and hails a cab to the airport.
That lays the groundwork for Jonathan Ames' new Byliner single, "You Were Never Really Here," an entertaining hard-boiled detective story.
Joe, whose last name is never given, is working for McCleary, a middleman for security companies and law firms who need something illegal done. Joe's specialty is finding women and girls who have been sold or forced into the sex trade. His next case, McCleary tells him, will involve getting a senator's daughter out of a Manhattan brothel.
Ames lays out Joe's methods like any good police procedural: Circle the block until a premium parking spot opens up, acquire the necessary information from someone leaving the building before going in, crack the car's windows when shoving someone in the back seat so they won't fog up.
Joe storms the brothel, finds the girl and delivers her to the agreed-upon location. There, he discovers the senator has betrayed him and finds himself entangled in a complex case of political corruption.
Between action scenes, Ames deftly hints at Joe's background. He reveals that Joe grew up with a violent father , and he describes the relationship between Joe and his mother, one that seems to be a sort of symbiotic devotion. He slowly divulges details of the mission that sent Joe into a mental tailspin.
The narrative builds to a brisk pace and then abruptly ends. It doesn't conclude in the way that some thrillers do, where a mystery leads to another mystery and the protagonist continues on the case. This single stops sharply in the middle of the action.
Because of that, the piece reads more like the first in a serial fiction series, not a fully formed story. Yet Ames' single is a good choice for lovers of Michael Connelly, Lee Child or Vince Flynn who are interested in character-driven thrillers. ($2.99, most formats)
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