Lawton does a brilliant job of incorporating backstory here, deepening our understanding of and feelings for rule-breaking Joe, who cares more for people than governments, while delivering a jaw-dropping finale that will leave readers palpitating for more.
John Lawton’s British detective fiction has reached the height of being predictably stirring, powerfully written, and cleverly knit together ... As a crime novel or work of espionage, Hammer to Fall isn’t a simple read. It demands some historical grasp of the reader, and patience with the curling plot. But there are intermittent sweeteners of humor and affection, and the final scenes lead dramatically to a high-tension Cold War quandary that promises more to come in this entertaining series.
John Lawton infuses Hammer to Fall with ironic, dispassionate humor, never more so than Wilderness’s cover story ... Wilderness is a lightning rod for trouble and danger—and his sardonic, deadpan approach to life’s vicissitudes adds to the pleasure of reading Hammer to Fall.
Lawton scores another hit ... Most of Joe’s old cronies and even his Berlin lover, Nell Burkhardt, appear, and it’s a pleasure for series fans to see them all again. Terrific writing, a complex plot with a twist ending, and a roguish lead will have readers eagerly awaiting his next adventure.
I found the 215 chapters of flashbacks and updates to be somewhat disruptive; while some are integral vignettes, others are gratuitous ... A number of characters from Lawton’s previous novels make cameos here — mostly, it appears, to create suspense or offer solutions to Wilderness’ various predicaments... That said, some characters are more cardboard than substantial, more contrived than essential, thus eroding the effectiveness of the narrative in places ... an entertaining read. Joe Wilderness exists in the novel — as do we readers — in the 'imperfect arrhythmia of takeoff and landing,' not quite soaring, not quite grounded.