A Thousand Bayonets – Joel Mark Harris Review

A Thousand Bayonets
Joel Mark Harris

Upon returning from Afghanistan, journalist John Webster discovers a gang war in his backyard. Now he must find a way to survive in this Canadian warzone-or die in the crossfire.

John Webster has seen the terrible things human beings can do. He’s an experienced investigative journalist, recently returned from the war in Afghanistan. John saw hell over there; he looked death straight in the face. He is glad to be back to the normalcy of his Canadian home-that is, until he realizes there is a war brewing in his own backyard, and “peace” is a word no longer spoken.

John gets caught up in the battle between two of the most powerful and murderous criminal gangs in the city. Using what he learned on the foreign battlefields, he stays alive, despite the price on his head. The only way to save his own life is to find the man responsible for the brutal neighborhood bloodshed. When the police slap a subpoena on him, though, John finds his only solace on the streets.

Suddenly, John is back in a warzone, fighting for his life. Will he be able to stop the bloodthirsty crime lords? The flashbacks to Afghanistan threaten to pull John into darkness. Soon, the past and present collide, and he can’t tell which way is up or down. The need for redemption may be stronger than the need for survival as John Webster finds himself on his most dangerous assignment yet.

First off, as a matter of full disclosure, Harris was brought up in Vancouver and the novel takes place there.  I have this problem where I get strangely sentimental about books that place in the city I live in. I get a strange sense of delight when I’m reading about Gastown or South Vancouver or the Vancouver Public Library. This probably means I’m a little biased, but I’ll put my thoughts down about this book anyway.

John Webster is a deeply flawed character. He’s a borderline alcoholic, not a great husband or father, deeply reckless…and I found myself rooting for him the entire time. There were some really dumb moves made by John, but at the same time, I’d classify him as “stupidly courageous”. I’ve never felt deeply compelled to draw people’s attention to anything,  but John is a true journalist who sees corruption and murder and wants people to know about it even if it puts his life at risk (i.e. “stupidly courageous).

The supporting cast of characters were all quite unique in their own ways, but none of them were especially memorable. There were two female potential love interests and we get a little satisfaction from both those relationships.  The plot moved at a decent pace, but there were quite a few characters to keep track of. I had to go back a couple of times to remember who a certain person was.  The ending was slightly abrupt. I think I would have enjoyed a longer progression to the climax.

This novel was still extremely well-written and I enjoyed reading it. Harris is a very promising writer in the mystery genre and I’ll definitely be checking out any of his future books.

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