In his latest book featuring the character Dan Kotler, Kevin Tumlinson navigates his genre with a level of skill that makes The Stepping Maze a truly enjoyable read. The plot is fast paced, full of surprises, yet still easy to follow and keep track of the details. His characters are well-developed but, have not fallen into stagnation. They continue to evolve, learning about themselves as we learn about them. Even technical considerations enhance the novel.
As to be expected in any good thriller, Tumlinson opens immediately into the action, and keeps a quick paced plot from there. He divides the book into parts, allowing each story arc its own section within the larger narrative. This technical detail pleasantly accentuates the pace of the novel. Just when everything seems set to wrap up, an entirely new set of questions arise, beginning the next arc sequence. Plot twists and turns make The Stepping Maze a real page-turner, and the structure gives readers a sense of closure at the end of one act before the next begins.
Coming into this novel with no previous exposure to Tumlinson’s writing, it was immediately evident the characters had been developed over a significant time-span. It took a couple of chapters to be certain, but once I had confirmed this was not the first book in the story line, I found myself able to enjoy the book as a stand-alone piece. Occasional references to previous exploits are well crafted. Tumlinson manages to pique the reader’s interest alluding to a previous episode without distracting from the story at hand, nor confusing the reader with the unfamiliar reference. Enough background is given for the reader to get a sense of growth characters have undergone through previous adventures without having read the other works.
My only complaint of this first edition has to do with editing. I found less than half a dozen typographical errors in the text, but each of them created enough dissonance as to force a pause to identify and mentally correct the error and flow of the story. This example of uncoordinated tense comes from chapter 9:
The man—large, muscular, and still wearing the balaclava—casually reach into the box and picked her up, almost one-handed.
It is small, but in the quickstep pace of this novel, bumping into one of these small errors can feel a bit like hitting a pothole while speeding down the freeway.
Editing misses aside, fans of thrillers will enjoy Tumlinson’s latest work. Perhaps not as intricate as a Dan Brown piece, but in my opinion, at least as well written. I highly recommend this novel and will be seeking more works by this author for my collection.
Amanda King – March 4, 2019
Originally published on Reedsy Discovery
E-book provided by Reedsy Discovery for review purposes.