In recent years it's seemed like a lot of the authors in the international crime or espionage genre never quite made it out of the Cold War. At best, we've had Eighties themes of Central American drug smuggling, or terrorist plots that seem tame if you've been watching the TV news. While I've got a soft spot for the Cold War genre myself, it's to be hoped that today's authors could write about today's 'theater'.
Evans' _Blood Price_ is so fresh you almost expect its events to show up in tomorrow's headlines. Readers don't get to shy away from today's ugly truths for much longer than protagonist Paul Balthazar Wood does, whether those truths are the aftermath of Sarajevo or the wreck that is Paul's relationship and career at the start of the book. Nor is Paul a former CIA agent or some other all-too-typical military hero; he's an out-of-work Canadian programmer, albeit with a few tours in the world backpacker and hiker scene, and the adventures from Evans' debut novel _Dark Places_.
From the Balkans to Burning Man, refugee smuggling to cyber-crime, _Blood Price_ spans the globe and an ever-widening range of topics that Evans clearly knows his way around. Despite brief digressions into the mechanics of computer programming in C, scuba, border crossings and even flamethrowers, Evans keeps the story moving without excessive technical lecturing - but also without tripping up on any details. (Unlike the average Hollywood movie, I can read Evans secure in the knowledge that Evans knows even more about how the Internet works than I do.)
The settings would make a Bond movie blush, and yet the action scenes come in realistically under budget. The characters are rounded and likeable - even when they shouldn't be; Evans has a genius for making you realize that the Bad Guys are, in fact, human. The heroes are human too, from moments of brutal suffering to unexpected comedy, tinged with adrenaline.
The novel's pace is engaging and interesting, maintaining a rate of tension even in the slower parts of the plot without seeming artificial. It's hard to say whether the very human drama of Evans' characters or the world-wide criminal empire's plans are more compelling; they are inevitably, inextricably linked.
If you're looking for hip, even savvy, current fiction without hipster pretension, Evans has it. If you'd rather have a fast-paced international crime thriller with a hero who's more brain than brawn, pick up _Blood Price_ for a satisfying read.