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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Damnable" by Hank Schwaeble (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Visit Hank Schwaeble's Official Website Here
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Hank Here


Hank Schwaeble is an attorney in Houston and is also a former Air Force officer working as a special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He has also won the Bram Stoker award in 2009 for the anthology "Five Strokes to Midnight" along with Gary Braunbeck.

Damnable is Hank Schwaeble's debut novel and is being released in mass market paperback by Jove books, an imprint of Penguin books. The book is 26 chapters, with a prologue and epilogue.


I happened upon this book while browsing through a catalogue. The book blurb that caught my eye describes the setting as that in New York City and having it involve an ex-military operative who has to search for his long lost brother. I knew that I wanted to check out this book further based on this description.

The setting of this story might seem a bit cliched and in some ways reminds me of the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. However after reading the first couple of chapters I knew my perceived idea of this story was wrong and that this was something completely different an a little more violent then what I would have expected.

The story begins with a rather strange accident which sets of the beginning events of the novel. Within the first chapter readers are introduced to the main protagonist Jake Hatcher, who is currently in a military prison due to events that are unknown at the time. His release is facilitated due to events that have been told to readers in the prologue. Jake then goes on to meet up with his mother and tries to get an understanding of the events that have happened and are about to happen.

I would rather not reveal too much of what happens in the novel especially the beginning as it's all intricately connected and the plot line just builds up from there. The surprise of the novel seems to be an important part of the reading of this.

The majority of the chapters are told from Jake Hatcher's POV, however there are a few chapters where the POV shifts to include two other prominent characters who play an important part in the story. The characters, and the roles that they play, I believe will be a lot more beneficial to the readers if they find this out for themselves. There are a few one-off POVs from minor characters scattered throughout the story. This aspect of Hank Schwaeble's writing is very reminiscent of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child who often insert one-off POVs in between the main POVs.

The story is a amalgamation of horror and thriller as Hank Schwaeble does an admirable job of keeping the reader hooked with his easy and readable prose. He also does a very good job of relaying the action scenes and the story lines to the reader. No space is waster in reminiscing about anything that took place and all development of the storyline is forward, with no looking back. Another excellent job done by Schwaeble is that of taking all the story threads that are occurring in this novel and twisting them all into one at the end. This is something that can be appreciated as Schwaeble's writing style and story structure is very much like a seasoned author and many readers will not be able to tell that this is his debut novel.

Schwaeble has a nod to John Steinbeck and has inserted it into the plot in a very apropos manner. I thought this was a very interesting aspect of the novel and something that should have it's attention drawn to.

The character development within Damnable is unique unto itself. The main protagonist is not a cookie-cutter character and has many sides to him, some of which are shown in this story and some of them that are not told within the novel. I'm sure there are many readers like myself who would like to read and know more about Jake Hatcher, as he was able to draw readers in and frustrate them at time. I'd love to see more of this character in other books in the future.

Another character that has great development is that of the antagonist. The antagonist is not just all out crazy, instead Schwaeble does a great job of presenting the antagonists viewpoint and giving readers a rationale explanation of what is happening and what's behind all the events. I for one could understand the thought process and even sympathize with the "bad" guy because of this portrayal.

In the end, Hank Schwaeble just a fantastic job in writing his debut novel. He is a talents guy who is sure to light up the thriller scene with future books. This book is a must read for all thriller, horror and supernatural fiction fans. Hank Schwaeble's Damnable is by far the best debut thriller of 2009 for myself. Read Damnable and find out why for yourself!


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