So of course, I picked up the first book, first.
Here's the situation as The Abrupt Physics of Dying opens: Claymore Straker's been working as an oil company engineer for a company of questionable ethics, in Yemen. His job is to conduct surveys of oil locations, present and future, and collect the test results for the company, while at the same time assuring the local people that the company only means to bring them good things: money, schools, a hospital even. He's been lying for his clients for so long that it doesn't bother him much.
But he has a vulnerability: He cares about his local driver and close friend Abdulkader. When a rebel leader named Al Shams captures Clay and Abdulkader, there's only one deal on the table: Clay must visit more of the sites being poisoned, take samples that prove it's from the oil operations, and get that information to the company leadership with a message from Al Shams: "All that is within this land is a gift from God to those who have lived here since before the prophet." Abdulkader's life depends on Clay completing this mission by a deadline that Al Shams sets:
"My people are dying. Your oil is killing them. What you must ask yourself, Mister Claymore, is if you care. ... I am giving you an opportunity, my friend, to find what you have lost."But the oil company's corrupt -- well, Clay knew that, in a way -- and although its environmental effects are actually far worse than Clay realized, his efforts to make the leadership listen fall on deaf ears. Receiving Abdulkadar's severed hand in a package confirms that the deadline was intended, real, and fierce.
But that doesn't stop Clay's awakened conscience from driving him to fight for the Yemeni people, now that he's reawakened to caring about the land and the individuals. In The Abrupt Physics of Dying, his math and science skills are of little avail when he finds he's on the wrong side of both Yemen's secret service and the CIA.
The book's bloody and fearsome ending reshapes Clay Straker into an international race to escape being framed, in THE EVOLUTION OF FEAR. There's a woman he's begun to care about also, across barriers of ethnicity, religion, and motives. This time, it's not just the CIA on his tail: The Russian mafia, Greek Cypriots, and Turkish land developers have surrounded the woman in her role as a powerful journalist, and once again, Clay's struggling to free someone he cares about from a hostage situation. Even if he succeeds, will she accept him as lover and friend -- or push him away, symbol of the oppressive money forces operating around her. What must he give up, to maintain Rania's safety and his own sense of integrity? He struggles to understand:
"Justice isn't an event, she'd said. It isn't something you do once. There is no end to it. Forgiveness, you earn."
I have complete confidence that Paul E. Hardisty -- whose bio is outrageously interesting and laced with risk -- will carry this series forward. Consider me eagerly waiting for the next Clay Straker adventure, with its suspense and moral conflicts, as well as highly memorable characters and situations. Good stuff.
Yes, these deserve reading in sequence. Both are available via the usual sources, thanks to Trafalgar's adept US distribution.