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Vanishing Games – Roger Hobbs Review

Vanishing Games – Roger Hobbs Review

vanishing-games-roger-hobbsReleased: July 2015

From its exotic setting among the underworlds of Macau and Hong Kong to its unrelenting action sequences, Vanishing Games by Roger Hobbs is a breath of fresh air amongst the books that usually make up my collection.

Although Vanishing Games is the follow-up to Hobbs’ 2013 debut Ghostman, it’s really not difficult to jump into the world of this criminal mastermind without any previous knowledge of the series. All you really need to know is that protagonist Jack White is a Ghostman – a man who can make anything disappear, including himself if the situation calls for it. After a planned jewel heist in the South China Sea goes deadly wrong, Jack is called up by job organiser, old collaborator and long-time friend Angela to fly out to Macau and unravel the conspiracy they’ve found themselves wrapped up in.

This novel was both gritty and gripping, shedding light on the criminal practices and organisations that make up the neon slums of one of the fastest-growing gambling cities in the world. Macau itself is wondrously portrayed, flipping from scenes that describe the kind of rich opulence that caters to wealthy tourists to the shady back streets and underworlds that those tourists would be very unlucky to find themselves in. According to Jack, it’s all about knowing where to look to get the right kind of information, and luckily for us Jack is well-skilled in the art of getting what we wants and is unsurprisingly able to slip between these two worlds like a pro, offering explanations of how to do so all the while.

In fact, Hobbs’ narrative is filled with detailed and technical breakdowns of all sorts of things, from breaking into a locked, electronic hotel safe to the best tool to use to decapitate someone and leave their features intact. While many of these little asides are largely unnecessary to the plot, they do go a long way towards establishing the world we find ourselves in when we’re reading Vanishing Games – namely, one that operates outside of the law, which is what makes it such a fascinating read.

For me, Vanishing Games was reminiscent of Don Winslow’s Savages/The Kings of Cool saga, being almost effortlessly cool and insanely knowledgeable about the criminal underworld. The characters did fall slightly short of growing to care for them – Jack and Angela’s relationship may go way back, but at times the author wants us to take that knowledge as a given, rather than offering scenes that show us just how close they are – but that’s a small price to pay to experience the thrill ride that this novel turns out to be.

With several players fighting for control of an extremely valuable item, South East Asia becomes the gorgeous backdrop for the kind of tense power play most heist films would dream of being able to recreate on screen, and Jack Fisher becomes the man we need to see us through to the truly page-turning finale.


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