Johnny Barrick and his friends are about to become very rich. His company is set to go public in the stock market, and, once that happens, he alone will earn a hundred million dollars. To celebrate the upcoming IPO, he invites ten of his friends, associates, and acquaintances to celebrate on an island off the Georgia coast. This is where the main character and private investigator Hank Tower comes in. Johnny’s girlfriend Didi invites her best friend Carol and her partner (Hank) to the island.
Though Hank is off-duty, when he gets to the island, Orrin, the Chief Legal Counsel of Johnny’s company, confides in him that there’s something suspicious happening in Johnny’s company and that he is worried about it going public. In fact, he tells Hank that the last person to cast doubt on the IPO was one of the lawyers at Johnny’s company, who mysteriously ended up dead. Before Hank can look into his suspicions, Orrin dies of a heart attack, and the autopsy doesn’t seem to indicate any foul play. It’s evident that someone wants to push the IPO through—and will stop anyone who gets in the way.
This understandably makes everyone uneasy, so they all evacuate the island and head back to New York, where Hank gets contacted by the SEC and the FBI to look into the crime. Who would kill for the IPO? When the killer starts targeting more people from Johnny’s party, the clock starts ticking for Hank—who must work harder to get to the root of these crimes before he and his family are next.
The urgency to solve the murder is threaded into the dialogue and multiple perspectives of the book, where the semi-omniscient point of view shows readers when and where the mystery killer is about to strike. Even though the author creates a tense atmosphere in the novel, the writing and transitions between chapters and scenes could be smoother. It gets a little hard to follow at times, as it’s unclear who’s talking, especially when the change in point of view abruptly shifts from one character to the next.
As a result, Charlie Horn’s THE DEADLY IPO, A Hank Tower Novel often reads like a screenplay in the way that it puts more focus on the dialogue and makes sharp turns with every victim reveal. In some instances, especially in the buildup before each death and the final reveal of the killer, it works in creating an ominous atmosphere for readers to get lost in. Overall, however, it’s hard to envision the characters or the setting without enough description to set the scene. This includes Hank as well; he has the potential to be a strong lead, but readers don’t know enough about him as a person—and his personal relationships fall to the backburner for the sake of his job.
The same can be said for the supporting characters as well. The author offers just enough context to show why the killer goes after each member of Johnny’s failed party, but the episodic feel of each spotlight siloes their individual involvements in the larger story. This feels glaringly evident when, outside of Johnny’s party, none of the characters really interact with one another (except Hank, who interrogates each of them for the case).
Charlie Horn’s THE DEADLY IPO, A Hank Tower Novel offers some propulsive moments, including a twist that readers may not see coming, but it would be a stronger thriller if it had a smoother narrative and more interconnected character dynamics.
~Kamrun Nesa for Indie Reader