Monday, 11 July 2011

Review: Money Run by Jack Heath

Ashley Arthur is a teenage thief – the best there is. Along with her best friend Benjamin, they have concocted a master plan – to steal local billionaire Hammond Buckland’s most precious, and valuable, asset. Hidden somewhere in Buckland’s office building is the thing they seek – worth a massive $200 million.

Her plan is simple: get in, get rich and get out.

However, what Ashley doesn’t count on are Buckland’s many enemies. Peachy is a hitman on a mission – to kill Buckland – but soon Ashley becomes his new target and he is determined to finish the job – at any cost!

Pretty soon, Ashley isn’t worried about getting out with the $200 million. She’d be happy to just get out alive.

The past six weeks have been incredibly busy work-wise and at times it has been difficult to keep up with posting reviews. My 'To Be Read' pile is embarrassingly tall and I have a huge list of reviews to write (roll on the school summer holidays), and I have had to start turning down offers of books for review. However,  when I received an email about Money Run by Jack Heath that very clever publicist had me hooked immediately with the following words: "Die Hard meets Hustle". My all time favourite Christmas film meets one of my favourite TV programmes of the last ten years - I was sold immediately and even promoted it straight to the top of the TBR pile and started reading it as soon as it arrived (sorry other publishers), and I didn't put it down again until I had finished it. Yes, I enjoyed it that much.

I am aware that I sometimes over use certain words and phrases when writing reviews. Prime examples would be: "hi-octane", "roller coaster ride", "edge of your seat", and I am sure there are many others (hey... I teach woodwork, not English), and clichéd though these may be I still want to use every single one of them (and more) to describe Money Run. In a world that has seen a huge number of thrillers written for the 11+ age group over the past decade this one feels fresh and original and if I sequel was out already I would have started reading it as soon as I had finished this one. As for how it lived up to that original phrase on which I was sold so quickly? I think the only link to Die Hard is its setting in a highrise office, but there are definitely a number of favourable comparisons with Hustle. However, I would also like to throw 24 into the mix, because, apart from the prologue, the whole story takes place over one evening and every 'minute' is made to count.

I can't think of many books for this age group that are set in such a short period of time, and it is quite impressive how much Jack Heath manages to fit in to this mere handful of hours without the plot ever seeming rushed or too crammed with information. More importantly as well, although he manages to include as many action set-pieces as you will find in many a blockbuster action film there are also the essential quieter moments that add tension to the story and kept me eagerly turning pages whilst my heartbeat settled back to something close to its normal rest rate.  

Over the past ten years or so I have read a number of action adventure stories that, although they have been (cliché time again) exciting, fun-filled, white-knuckle rides, this has been at the cost of good character development and ultimately they have left me feeling a little cheated, as to really enjoy a scene where your main character is at risk of losing their life you have to genuinely care about that character. When this is the case your pulse accelerates, you get that butterflies-in-stomach feeling, and you really start to worry about the dangers faced by that character...... at least I do anyway and I am sure I am not alone in this. Technically, Money Run has two main characters, Ash and Benjamin, but in this story at least, Ash is very much the main focus, and I it was not long into the book before I was reading each page as fast as I could to find out what she would do next.

To say any more about the plot than that which is already written in the publisher's blurb above would be to ruin the story for you. It would be like showing all the best bits in a movie trailer and leaving no surprises when you finally come to watch the film itself. However, to put it simply, Ash is a thief and Benjamin is the technical wizard who plans with her and supports her whilst she is in the field, and together they make a formidable team. In Money Run the pair set out to steal a whopping great $200 million dollars from a billionaire businessman, but very quickly find themselves very much out of their depth as Ash finds herself dodging multiple assassins, the police and the machinations of the very same billionaire they intended to relieve of his cash. I remember watching the very first season of 24, and how I realised after the first few episodes that I would never really know what was going to happen next, and guessing would be a pointless exercise. Although whilst reading Money Run I did find myself correctly guessing a few of the plot twists, there were many that I didn't see coming, the biggest of which comes right at the very end of the book.

Money Run has its weaknesses but it is so much fun that it is very easy to ignore these and enjoy the ride, although and you will need to suspend your disbelief at times. As I closed this book I genuinely felt that the couple of hours I had spent reading it were well spent and I felt nothing but excitement at the prospect of a sequel and the potential for even more exciting stories beyond that. In fact,  I am tempted to order the follow-up story, Hit List, from Mr Heath's native Australia where I believe it is already available. If you love full-on action films then you will love this book.

My thanks go to Liz Scott and Usborne for sending me a copy of this book to review. Please come back in August when I will be featuring a superb guest post written by Jack Heath exclusively for The Book Zone.

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