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Overkill: An Alex Hawke Novel


Overkill: An Alex Hawke Novel

There was a time when a great deal of popular literature closely resembled Ted Bell’s Alex Hawke books. Doc Savage, a mainstay in the pulp magazines, comes immediately to mind, though there were others who arrived on the scene later. They generally involved a protagonist who was smart, strong, brave, forthright and wealthy. Accompanying them was a group of loyal friends with a mixed bag of skill sets who were willing to lay it all on the line to save the world or a piece thereof. That doesn’t sum up the Hawke novels, but it gives us a jumping-off point.

I should emphasize that all the books in this series (including OVERKILL, the 10th and latest installment) are full of action, historical nuggets and suspense. It seems as if nothing is off the table, as far as Bell is concerned. No other conclusion seems plausible. I mean, how many novels have you read that start off with Vladimir Putin zipping up his trousers after an interlude with a former Miss Ukraine (a sly joke, that one) while he is aboard a private jet, one step ahead of the Russian oligarchs who are planning to depose him? His flight is quick, but not entirely clean, and there is a misstep or two before he gets to his master plan, which is to retake Russia and from there conquer the world. He intends to accomplish all of this through…Switzerland. At first it seems unlikely, but it makes sense once Bell explains everything in an extremely interesting preface.

"OVERKILL is what used to be called a 'ripping yarn,' one that you won’t be able to read fast enough."

Meanwhile, Hawke is blissfully unaware of what Putin is planning as he and his young son, Alexei, go about celebrating Christmas with a ski vacation to the Swiss Alps. It looks like an idyllic postcard scene until the tramcar they are aboard suddenly snaps a cable and is left dangling thousands of feet in the air. When the dust settles and the smoke clears, Alexei is inexplicitly missing. This sets up a major mystery that, like the tramcar, Bell does not leave hanging for too long. The “howdunit” becomes a “whodunit” in due course. Hawke is single-minded in his mission to rescue Alexei, as well as catch the lad’s abductors. As usual, Alexei is the most unspoiled spoiled child you’ll ever encounter in a real or imaginary world, so the clock that is ticking while his rescue is effectuated is a very loud one indeed.

Hawke naturally has assistance from a wide-ranging group of friends and associates who contribute brawn, brain and munitions to the pursuit, and dole out punishment for the evil deed while saving the world. Don’t get too relaxed, though. Just when the reader thinks that all is well with the world, Bell throws a monkey wrench into the proceedings at the very end. The next installment in the series simply cannot come too soon.

Bell continues to put his amazing storytelling chops on display. He does not take either his tale or his characters too seriously, but each is highly memorable and all the more realistic for being broadly drawn. He also introduces a new antagonist for Hawke who is almost certain to figure prominently in at least one future tale. Furthermore, Bell turns this latest volume into an exciting travelogue that focuses on Switzerland and answers the question of why it has not been successfully invaded in over 200 years. OVERKILL is what used to be called a “ripping yarn,” one that you won’t be able to read fast enough.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 11, 2018

Overkill: An Alex Hawke Novel
by Ted Bell

  • Publication Date: January 29, 2019
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062684531
  • ISBN-13: 9780062684530