Hell & Gone Review
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He may have a tricky last name, but once you read your first book by author and comic book writer Duane Swierczynski, you’ll want to get online and search for the correct pronunciation—because you’ll want to get his name right when you’re telling all of your friends about him.

Swierczynski’s latest, Hell & Gone, is the second in his Charlie Hardie trilogy. A former cop, Hardie decided to leave his life (and his family) behind in Philadelphia to lie low in Los Angeles, watching houses for the rich and famous. At his last job, though (in Fun & Games), he came into contact with a group of secret hit men known as The Accident People.

Hell & Gone picks up after a massive shootout that leaves Hardie fighting for his life. Before the shootout, he was able to put in a call to FBI Agent Deke Clark—but by the time Deke arrives in L.A., it’s too late. Charlie is nowhere to be found.

After fading in and out of consciousness for a while, Hardie wakes to find himself named the warden of a dank underground prison, where a handful of prisoners are tortured by four ruthless guards. As Hardie tries to find an escape, though, he begins to realize that things in this strange prison aren’t as they may seem.

Building on his comic book background, Swierczynski crafts yet another rapid-fire thriller in Hell & Gone. Though Hardie spends most of the novel trapped underground, trying to find a way to escape the prison that’s named him its warden, the story rarely drags. Instead of taking on the monotony of incarceration, it becomes more intriguing—and more suspenseful—the longer Hardie spends in the prison. You’ll know that, at some point, something will have to give—that he’ll eventually have to find some way out—and you’ll eagerly read on, waiting to see how he’ll pull it off.

Despite its modern setting, something about the story still feels classic—and even comic-like—from the determined but down-and-out main character to its eerie setting. Swierczynski’s style, meanwhile, is remarkably graphic, with imagery so vivid that it’ll play out like movie in your mind.

Hell & Gone is meant to be read as a part of the trilogy—so I definitely recommend reading Fun & Games first. If not, you’ll spend the beginning of the book trying to put the pieces together—because, while there is some recap, it’s kept to a minimum, to help keep the pacing lightning-fast.

Duane Swierczynski’s name is one to learn—and to remember. You might want to practice pronouncing it, too (incidentally, his blog says it’s pronounced “sweer-ZIN-ski”). After all, once you pick up one of his gripping thrillers (like Hell & Gone or 2010’s Expiration Date), he’s sure to become one of your favorite authors.

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