There are some criminals so dangerous the world can never know about them.
They can’t be held in regular prisons.
They must never be released.

Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski

Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski

They’re here – in a secret underground prison miles away from anywhere. And now, so is Charlie Hardie. The shadowy organisation running the jail sent him there as punishment for getting in their way. But he’s not a prisoner. He’s in charge.

He can leave any time he wants, he’s told. There’s just one catch: if he goes, everyone in the prison dies, including innocent guards.

But when Charlie realises his family may be in danger, he knows he must protect them at any cost.

Even if it means blasting his way out, one inmate at a time…

Charlie Hardie is back and there’s no stopping him! Hell & Gone represents the second title in a trilogy featuring the enigmatic and opinionated Charlie Hardie, a house sitter for want of a better description, who finds himself in all sorts of trouble right from the very beginning – we wouldn’t want it any other way!

When we last met Hardie – Fun & Games – he’d clearly seen better days for our hero had been left battered and bruised following an explosive encounter with The Accident People, he was literally fighting for his life. A powerful group of individuals led by the voluptuous and ruthless Mann, they are a group for hire protecting the rich and famous. Nothing and no one would stand in their way. Charlie Hardie had other ideas and it nearly cost him his life.

Published by Mulholland Books Hell & Gone is another one of those books I’ve found hard to review purely due to spoilers, or my desire to give away as little as possible in a review! As with his first title Duane Swierczynski’s narrative is incredibly slick and flows effortlessly from the opening scenes until its dénouement. Swierczynski packs so much into this book that it will leave you breathless on numerous occasions – partly due to the violence and partly due to his vivid imagination that worryingly struck a chord with me!

Hardie is in an underground prison – maximum security – guarding a number of high risk prisoners. He rules the roost – or so he thinks – but has no idea where he is or how he arrived at the prison. Told to enter the lift and descend he comes face to face with his fellow guards who eagerly await the arrival of their new boss. Taken on a tour of the facility he takes in his new surrounds and begins to wonder why him. Still dazed from both his medication and injuries Hardie struggles to come to terms with his incarceration, fellow officers and the depravity of their actions.

Things aren’t what they seem however – when are they ever – and it’s left to Charlie to discover a way out, who he can trust and who’s really running the show. The majority of this thriller is set deep underground and although I imagined a generous floor plan that includes bedrooms, cells and shower block, I still found myself suffering slightly with an imaginative claustrophobia! I allowed my mind to wander wondering how I would have coped with the confines and would I have been able to survive not only physically but mentally. I’m still unsure but one thing I do know is that my imagination ran riot thanks to Swierczynski’s atmospheric prose. You’ll walk away from this book thoroughly entertained and grateful you can open the front door at any time and experience unrestricted sunlight and fresh air.

The lobby and the lower floors were his childhood – the foundation. The carpeting was shabby and almost no one was ever at the front desk, but it was a decent enough place to stay. The management did the best they could considering the neighbourhood. There was a bed, four walls, food to eat. A few diversions, a few fellow travellers.

Then came the fractured , damaged floors of his adolescence , back when the idea that you could check out of the hotel held great appeal to him.

Unlike in Fun & Games where the dry black humour hits you like an oncoming truck I found the humour was used sparingly and delivered a lot more subtly this time around but given the violence and captivity this isn’t surprising in the least, it works well and Hardie delivers a few memorable lines but I do hope the humour returns in droves for the third and final title in the trilogy Point & Shoot.

There are of course a few twists and turns in the book and as you near the end Swierczynski ties everything in with consummate ease leaving that little opening at the end for a cliffhanger. One of the shocks for me was the prison location, totally unexpected, and when Hardie discovers where he has been held I took a deep breath and once again my imagination took over. I totally bought into the location – loved it!

Hell & Gone, although slightly different in style and appearance to the first in the series, is another fine example of Duane Swierczynski’s ability to weave a story and leave the reader wanting more. A well-paced thriller I for one can’t wait for the third and final instalment in the Charlie Hardie trilogy – my only regret will be that with it comes the end of a vibrant and moreish character.

Published by Mulholland Books Hell & Gone is available in paperback.

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