Book Review – The Portable Nine by Pete Mesling

book review – the portable nine by pete mesling

book review – the portable nine by pete meslingAbout The Portable Nine

Meet Davenport, also known as the Mad Marksman of Malta. He is a hunter. Not of game or fowl, but of men. What he hunts he finds, and what he finds he exterminates—until his trusty revolver fails him at a crucial moment in Italy, that is, leaving a job unfinished and his resolve shaken. Mistakenly thinking the blow has been struck, a criminal mastermind known as the Black Phantom performs a cruel act of retaliation. The once and would-be assassin has no choice but to reunite with a storied band of skilled mercenaries in an effort to exact revenge.

Davenport. Abel Hazard. Miranda Gissing. Dr. Joseph Intaglio. Mr. Bonnet. Twitch Markham. The Butcher. Lovinia Dulcet. Robin Varnesse. These are the Portable Nine. They operate outside the law, but they are not without a code of ethics. Outcasts all, they are heroes to the underdog and enemies of the ruthless. Intelligent and fearless, they will stop at nothing to see that their brand of justice is meted out.

My Thoughts

I’m glad I read the preface to this novel. One often doesn’t but this is a curious book and the narrative framing of the preface gives it a depth and a context that might otherwise have passed me by. It’s a book, as it seemed by the end, about loyalty and betrayal, and about what morality is. Take nine of the worst, most amoral characters you can imagine, who live by ruthlessly murdering others. Are they friends? Yes and no. Can such people have friends? Yes and no. Is there honour amongst them? Yes and no. Are they any better than the people they murder? Well… Yes and no. It’s a book, in short about ambiguity.

I did not like any of the characters but I certainly remember them. Nothing that they did was particularly endearing – a certain amount of looking out for each other is the best that I saw – but in some curious way I did engage with their project and wanted them to succeed. The gripping writing carried me on, and afterwards I thought a lot about the characters. The book opens a series that could move off in various directions. I hope they go on asking interesting questions, as this book does.

Isobel Blackthorn

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