One Fatal Mistake by Tom Hunt

January 30, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Release date: February 5, 2019

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

A teenager makes a split-second decision, drawing his entire family into a nightmarish situation. While his mother is determined to take the lead and keep her son is safe, other forces may prevent her from doing so. Author Tom Hunt is back with his second novel and thriller, the somewhat uneven book One Fatal Mistake.

Single mom Karen has devoted her life to her son, Joshua. He’s months away from graduating from high school and, fingers crossed, accepting a golf scholarship to his dream university across the country. Karen’s done okay for herself as an ICU nurse, and she even gets along with her ex. While she’ll miss Josh, she also knows how important it is for him to get out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and experience the world.

That world suddenly becomes much smaller when Josh confesses a horrifying fact to Karen: he attacked a man and left him for dead.

It doesn’t matter that the man initiated the heated exchange nor that the altercation happened on the spur of the moment. Even Josh’s valid claim that he came at the man in self-defense scares Karen. Years earlier, the son of a prominent politician found himself in a similar situation and the jury didn’t hesitate to put the boy behind bars. Karen fears her son, an ordinary person, will suffer a similar fate or worse.

She returns to the scene of the crime with Josh to decide what to do about the man’s body. Before mother and son can come up with a rational plan, however, they run into two people on the run from the law. Karen and Josh are taken hostage and find the most unbelievable demands being placed on them. Now not only does she have to fight for Josh’s life; Karen also has to fight for her own.

Author Tom Hunt follows up his debut novel Killer Choice with another book about deep moral dilemmas. At every turn, Josh and Karen find themselves challenged in unforeseen ways. Readers will appreciate Hunt’s snappy descriptions and his ability to get right to the heart of the action in his scenes.

The book’s climax, however, starts in the middle of that action and then drags for pages. What begins as a situation taut with tension gradually dissolves into a dreary play-by-play scene where the characters’ choices become more fantastical and the problems presented don’t match reality. Hunt may lose more astute readers in these moments.

For example, at one point a character is shot and undergoes surgery. Within hours, according to the narrative, infection sets in and the character’s wound becomes a mess. Another character attacks the wounded person, and despite repeated blows and hours of no attention somehow the wounded character survives. Hunt may be trying to pull readers in with shock value, but the narrative doesn’t prop up the shock with anything substantial. The result is a series of scenes that might induce snickering instead of gasps.

Short punchy sentences may be good for thrillers, but Hunt uses too many of them. It almost gives his story a sense of breathlessness, like the characters have a hard time communicating even when they’re just thinking about the situation at hand. Readers may grow weary of the choppy paragraphs.

Fans of thrillers might like this one for a quick weekend read. For the most part, I recommend readers Borrow One Fatal Mistake from their local libraries.