Sam Hilliard needs to quit his day job and write full time. He's a born writer of the first caliber. "Get out of prep school," as my preppie, grown children say, Sam, and go for your true profession. You have what it takes.
In "The Last Track," Mr. Hilliard introduces us to a cast of unforgettable characters. If he isn't writing a series of books about his main character, Mike Brody, the infamous tracker in question, I'm liable to send out a posse to track him!
With all the panache of a seasoned, gripping suspense writer, new author Sam Hilliard scores a direct hit with this book. Character development and His creation of an environment for them is at it's height. I actually saw myself there and felt the angst.
His tracker, Mike Brody, is a complex, infinitely intriguing man displaying a keen ability to track the lost in wilderness situations. He also is an apparent student of how to handle people, include those in positions of authority. His military background lends itself to his tracker abilities.
Using a sort of sixth sense that guides him, comes from an unknown source, and that he keeps close to the vest, Mike Brody is a quietly capable, and virtually unknown man. Personally, I loved this twist on an otherwise familiar protagonist. One not necessarily psychic, but just the right amount of odd. We never quite get a bead on this ability and I'm thinking that leads to another book.
Much could be said about the insights we gain into advanced computer espionage, wilderness survival and law enforcement cooperation, but these things play in accompaniment to the human story of the lost boy and Mike's connection to his family. His spicey ex-wife is an asset to Mike and the story overall. This balance of story lines renders a wealth of knowledge that keeps the entire piece flowing. "The Last Track" is a page-turner.
Self discovery, coming of age, awareness of womens' issues, and loyalty are themes, as well, in this book. It is a mark of excellence that Sam Hilliard manages to get so much value into his novel without spoiling it. What an accomplishment, particularly for a first time writer.
If I were to give a black-eyed critique of the book, I would say this one thing: it starts off too slowly to capture the average reader. Having said that, I can only encourage readers to persevere. Believe me when I say that this book is worth the effort.
Given Sam's astuteness and his obvious writing skills, we can only believe there are more Mike Brody tracker books in the future. He's left too many unanswered mysteries. We are left begging for more explanations. This is one of the great things about this book.
Who amongst us doesn't love anticipation?
Recommended for all lovers of mystery and suspense novels. For all who love Jeffrey Deaver, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell and Michael Connelly. Yes, Sam Hilliard is that good!
If you like thrillers set in the great outdoors, Sam Hilliard’s The Last Track (Buddhapuss Ink, $15.95 PB) might light your campfire. Mike Brody’s tracking skills are so expert that many of his clients think he’s psychic, therefore when a boy goes missing from a Montana resort, he’s brought in to find the teenager. Unfortunately, Brody isn’t the only person looking for him. The boy has witnessed a murder and some very bad people are after him, including a professional killer, a rogue Homeland Security agent, and a mysterious person known only as the Partner. Everyone becomes a suspect, right down to the cop in charge of the search, and Brody’s journalist ex-wife, who is the mother of his son. The best parts of this book come when Brody’s search takes us deep into the Montana woods, which the author describes in such beautiful detail that we can almost smell the pines. Hints about Brody’s own tragic background rachet up the tension, which spikes further when his own son is threatened by the Partner. At that point, Brody’s search for the missing teen becomes personal. While “Track” relies too much on coincidence, Brody is such a riveting character that he could easily anchor an entire series.
~Mystery Scene Magazine, Summer, #115
The ability to find people is a powerful one, but not without its pitfalls. "The Last Track" tells the story of Mike Brody, master tracker and former special forces operative. Charged with hunting for lost young man through the wilderness of Montana, Mike is faced with his toughest challenge yet, as a killer is on the loose as well, and everything lies on Mike's talents. "The Last Track" is an exciting adventure and mystery, highly recommended.
~Midwest Book Review
"Can anyone be trusted in this suspenseful thriller?"
Extreme adventure tour guide Mike Brody has a second, unpaid profession. He has a reputation for tracking people and getting results when no one else can. He has a strange ability of sensing energy left behind that helps him "see" the missing person and know details that he shouldn't be able to know. But Mike isn't at a Montana dude ranch to track anyone. He's merely here on vacation with his ex-wife and eight-year-old son. Mike doesn't plan on arriving just after an asthmatic teenage boy goes missing.
When Detective Lisbeth McCarthy finds out that one of the ranch's incoming guests is Mike, she asks for his assistance. Mike quickly realizes that Sean Jackson isn't just missing; he's on the run after witnessing a murder. Unsure why the local police aren't sharing all they know, he reluctantly agrees to pair up with an antagonistic police officer to track Sean. Mike's decision reminds his ex-wife, reporter Jessica Barrett, of just why they divorced in the first place. As Mike ventures out into the wilderness, Jessica tries to salvage the vacation for their son, Andy. At the same time, her reporter instincts tell her there's more to this case than a missing boy and a disappearing murder victim.
Will Mike and Officer Dagget find Sean before his asthma inhaler is empty? Who is the mysterious "Partner" who seems determined to hinder Mike's search and mislead the authorities? Will Jessica's search for answers endanger her or Andy? Just what is going on this section of Montana wilderness? As more obstacles are thrown Mike's way, will he be able to overcome them?
Readers need to be sharp to follow the hints slyly given throughout THE LAST TRACK. Helpful in this endeavor are the multiple points of view, giving readers a glimpse of all the main characters in this story. As time passes, readers are sure to wonder if Mike will find Sean before it's too late. Fans of the thriller genre, give Mr. Hilliard's debut novel a try.
"The Last Track (A Mike Brody Novel)" is a fast-paced mystery suspense novel, by first-time author Sam HIlliard. It introduces Mike Brody, smoke-jumper, former Special Forces operative, and expert tracker, who is forced by circumstances into tracking a missing teenage boy. As he does so, we are introduced to a cast of characters whom we (and Mike) are never sure whether to consider allies or villains.
This novel zips along at breakneck speed, even when we take detours away from the main action to the various side plots. We are pulled along as the hero advances unrelentingly, evading or neutralizing one obstacle after another, until the final climactic scenes.
"The Last Track" should definitely appeal to readers who enjoy their suspense to be informative and action-packed. If I had any complaint, it would be the minor (and to me, unnecessary and jarring) insertion of a bit of the supernatural. Brody has the ability to feel the "emotional imprints" left behind by those he's tracking. That veers a little too much into the paranormal for my taste, especially considering how steeped in reality the majority of this novel is. Aside from that minor quibble, I commend Mr. Hilliard for a job well done.
~Jeremy Warach, Brief Fiction and Random Jottings
As a starter novel, Sam Hillard has a fantastic beginning in the first of (what I hope) will be a series of books about Mike Brody, a tracker who uses somewhat unconventional methods to track missing people.
Mike Brody is somewhat apprehensively looking forward to a vacation on a dude ranch with his ex-wife and son Andy, setting aside (hopefully) their disagreements for the sake of their son. But nothing turns out as well as we wish it would on a vacation and Mike is no different than the rest of us. He is soon sought out by Lizbeth McCarthy, detective who knows Mike's tracking past and wants him to put his talents to work to find an asthmatic boy who somehow disappeared in the woods around their dude ranch.
During The Last Track, we see Mike with a variety of people, all so different in personalities and lifestyles that quite frankly are as mysterious as they are fascinating, it is hard for the reader to say "I know who dunnit" until the very last bit of the novel. For me, an avid suspense reader, this is what makes Sam's book a hit! There is nothing quite so annoying as figuring out the storyline during the first few chapters yet feeling you must finish the book to make sure.
To be sure, Sam doesn't fully explain all the characters but in the first book of a series that is to be expected as I am sure many of these self same characters will appear again and again, revealing bits about themselves as they evolve within Sam's book.
Sam, throughout the book, does not want to talk about his "gift" which to some may seem supernatural but to this reader, I see it as a gift given to help him to go to the aid of others when they need it more quickly than in perhaps the use of more traditional methods of tracking. I find this aspect of Mike to be appealing and endearing while I also see an inner strength in him through his gift. Though he seems like a regular guy, nothing about Mike's past is ordinary. Mike is also an ex-Special Forces operative, a smoke jumper, and at this time, an extreme adventure tour guide, so fear is not in his vocabulary. But because he is such a private person he keeps his gift of having an extra ordinary ability to "feel and see" the memories and emotional state of those he is pursuing.
But a teen from a nearby campsite is missing and Mike has been asked to help find Sean who has inexplicably disappeared without a trace. Here is where the reader must place himself/herself in the shoes of Sean's parents. Suddenly they discover their son is missing. The last time they saw him, he was safely near their campsite and was happy. Then mere hours later, without a trace he was gone. Add to that the fear that Sean's asthma requires him to take medication on a regular basis and you have a suspenseful book with a clock you can almost hear in the background. It is a matter of life or death for Sean when it comes to his asthma and running through the trees, does nothing but worsen this problem for Sean.
But Sean must run. He saw something transpire that he knows if he is caught by the wrong person or persons, he is as good as dead, so despite his weariness and declining health, Sean runs on from an unseen pursuer bent on finding him before Mike does. His love of running and stamina is of utmost importance as the reader finds out soon that Sean is capable of pushing himself far beyond what his limits should be.
As Mike works in the woods, behind the scenes is his ex-wife, who just happens to be a well-connected journalist who has endless contacts of which she uses to unravel the truth behind the murder. Undoggedly Jessica digs and digs until the ace reporter in her shines and she finds the information through a maze of leads and contacts, that searchers and Mike so desperately need.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any and all who love suspense novels with a bit of the unusual and a lot of tension combined. Author Sam Hilliard has done all that and more and in my honest opinion, has a firm start to what could be an exciting series starring Mike Brody ahead!
~ Susan P. "honest to a fault", 5 star review, Amazon.com
"Ready for the next one!"
"Fast-paced and satisfying, The Last Track kept me up reading all night. The story draws you in and doesn't let go. And when I finished, I wanted more Mike Brody."
~ G Burleigh 5 star review, Amazon.com
“Fantastic Mystery Book!”
“The Last Track by Sam Hilliard immediately grabs your attention. The book is written very well. You want to learn more about each character in the book. I love mystery books and this one is at the top of them. With all of the surprising twists--you keep trying to see if you can figure out what will happen next. Some mystery books I am able to figure out the ending. I was wrong about what I thought would happen next. To me, that is an excellent mystery book.
I like how the book was broken down into four days. With the times posted every so often, you get more of a sense of urgency which of course is natural when Mike Brody, the main character, is trying to find the asthmatic boy who is lost in the woods.
This book would make an excellent gift for those that are into mystery books. I plan on buying a couple copies as gifts for my friends and family”
~Mick, 5 star review, Amazon
“A mystery read with a few twists while looking for a lost child in the woods”
“. . . I found myself liking the characters and even when questioning the characters as to why they acted the way they did, I thought at the same time - I could see people actually saying these things to their family members or each other.
The book did have a few twists in it I was not expecting, in the end of the book when the truth played out. But, through the mystery and the hints dropped I found I figured out most of the mystery. What helps give you all the clues is the story telling is from different view points. You get a section of the read from the lost boy, from Mike, from Jessica (Mike's ex-wife), and even from the killer . . . over all I enjoyed the read and had to see what the author had in store for me in the end. After I read the ending and who was who I thought back to all the clues that were dropped through the book, yes the clues were all there for me.”
~MelHay, 3 star review, Amazon
"Fast moving mystery adventure thriller"
"The Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel by Sam Hilliard is a fast paced mystery action thriller that kept my interest from the very beginning right through to the end. I loved the way the author used the passage of time instead of typical chapters to chronicle the passing of the four suspense filled days. When Mike Brody sets out on a family vacation in Montana, little did he know he would soon be searching the wilderness for a missing young boy that had witnessed a murder. Brody's skills as a former Special Forces, master tracker, smoke jumper and outdoor adventure tour guide are all he can trust and rely on to save the boy, his family and himself. I found "The Last Track" an fun and exciting adventure and I'm sure you will too." ~Theresa Hurley, 5 star review, Amazon.com
Still More . . .
"Suspense on every page"
"Mike Brody is a man's man, former Special Forces, former smoke jumper, outdoor adventurist, and master tracker. So, where does he go when it is time to unwind and spend some quality time with the family? Why a dude ranch in Montana, of course. However, this will be anything but a relaxing vacation. As soon as he arrives he is pulled into a murder mystery that will have him tracking across the great wide expanse of the Montana wilderness. Paired up with a local detective, Mike is forced to rely on his instinct and intuition to help solve the case and find the missing witness.
The Last Track by Sam Hilliard is an exciting adventure thriller. The author does a great job of developing a suspenseful atmosphere that will have readers on the edge of their seats. This is a must read."
~ Michael Harrison, 4 star review, Amazon.com
“A major goal of this blog is to introduce readers to new books and new authors. This is one of those times you’ve not heard of the book or the author, so take note.
This is Sam Hilliard’s first novel, and Sam, good start. This style of mystery is in my wheelhouse, right down the middle … and The Last Track hits a home run.
Mike Brody is a tracker, on the case of a missing teenager in the woods. A strong cast of characters surround him, and you’re left trying to find out who is good and who is bad, all while eagerly waiting to see if Mike succeeds.
Sam Hilliard has an ability to keep you guessing thoughout, not knowing who you can trust as a reader, always keeping the pages turning . . . Like the best of Dan Brown and others, the action happens quickly in The Last Track. Start to finish of the mystery is four days, and a clever clock keeps ticking to let you know throughout. The lead character also has just a touch of supernatural ability, but not enough to be hokey.
I look forward to reading more about Mike Brody in future novels. He’s different than John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar and Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware. However, he’s got that same ’read me’ quality these others have and you’ll want to know more.
On a sidenote: In a minor part of the book, the teenager being tracked explains something about running, and Hilliard nails it for me. Talking about runners in races who realize they aren’t going to win, but continue running, he writes, “Sean knew why they kept on in spite of the odds. Win or lose, the journey offered its own reward. Runners ran for the feeling of getting somewhere on their own steam.” It’s a small part, used to explain Sean’s situation and attitude. But it described my newfound love for running exactly.
Like I said, great work Sam. I look forward to more from Mike Brody and more mystery from this new author.
YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF: You enjoy suspenseful mysteries, John Sandford novels, long-running characters or are in the mood for something little different.”
~ Jack Sheard, 4 1/2 star review, What A Book
“I Couldn’t Put the Book Down . . .Seriously, I Could Not”
“I am fascinated by mountains and mysteries, so that is a lethal combination for me. What was really a wonderful bonus is that The Last Track was very well written and held my interest throughout the entire book. Nice descriptions, colorful characters and several surprises kept me hooked all the way to the very end.
I loved the ending, especially the last line. I was sad when it was over. I wanted to keep reading. I certainly hope that The Last Track will not be the last book written by this talented author. I look forward to the next book and it doesn’t even have to be set in the mountains! I’m sure it will be great.”
~ Kristian Wilder, 5 star review, Amazon.com
“Basically, Mike Brody (an ex super guy) goes on vacation and gets snared into a search for a missing boy. What Mike doesn’t know is that he just stepped into a huge pile of trouble by agreeing to help.
Now, I liked Mike, although flawed like everyone else, he has a good heart and wants to help others. He was a really likable character in my opinion.
The story itself was also very good. I’ll admit that it took me a little bit to understand the full depth of the situation and how things were connected, but once I got into it, things started to fall together for me. The story picked up a quick, almost urgent pace as you waited to find out what would happen. The plot was great, and the scheming and conniving characters kept the story going in unexpected directions.
I was kept guessing throughout this whole novel on who was really the good/bad guy. Appearances are deceiving! The end of this one came together nicely. I was satisfied that this story was closed out, while leaving room for future books (which I must say I would like to read). I think this one can appeal to a wide audience including, suspense, thriller, and mystery fans alike.”
~ Kris, review on The Cajun Book Lady
“A captivating and fast-paced thriller!”
“From the very start The Last Track captivates with a frenetic pace, keeping the reader engaged in a series of suspenseful events. The story itself spans across four days and rather than use traditional chapters, the author chronicles each section by the incremental passage of time much like an episode of 24. As time itself is the enemy, every moment proves important and each event becomes crucial in some manner. It’s a different and unique approach and serves to push the suspense aspect of the mystery as the reader is often even more aware of the passage of time than the characters. Hilliard’s true skill is definitely in the details because even though quite a lot happens in a very short amount of time, none of it feels rushed or forced thanks to a stunning narrative that is easy to follow and richly descriptive.
By extension the characters are easy to empathize with, appearing as three-dimensional and wholly realized entities. As the main protagonist, Brody is primarily focused on and much is learned throughout the novel of him, in particular his specific motivations for the life he has chosen. Hilliard vividly explores the sacrifices Brody has made and how these choices have impacted his family. A good portion of the novel is also given to fleshing out the villains and weaving an intricate network of nefarious subplots. . .
. . . Often the downfall of a mystery is the simplicity with which it is built, making a story so predictable that it’s hardly worth the effort of reading. But The Last Track manages to keep the reader guessing right up until the very last page by constantly presenting evidence against one person and simultaneously providing clear proof towards others. I won’t spoil the mystery by admitting whether my initial suspect was the Big Bad or not because either way the ending was a delightful surprise; one that most certainly lends itself to a sequel.”
~ Cyndy Otty, 4 star review on goodreads.com and Amazon.com
“A good mix of mystery and adventure, The Last Track will appeal to any thriller reader. A good yarn, not to be missed . . . highly entertaining and extremely difficult to put down.”
~ John A. Dunay, Police Lieutenant (Ret. ‘06). Police Advisor to Department of Justice, Dinwaniyah and Kurdistan, Iraq ‘08
“The Last Track, by Sam Hilliard, is full of mystery and suspense . . . (it) captures the thrill of the chase and the fear of the unknown. This book will keep your reading lamp on in the wee hours of the night!” ~ Spc Amanda Daigle, Jan-Dec 09, Kirkuk, Iraq. Purple Heart, Feb 09
“The Last Track is one of the best thrillers our book club has ever read. Chock full of unexpected twists and turns, this well-crafted mystery kept us guessing up until the very last page. A natural storyteller, Hilliard knows how to build suspense and create compelling characters. We can’t wait to go on another adventure with Mike Brody!”
~ Revolution Reading Club
“Believable, well-paced plot, likeable characters and solid suspense. Very effective use of setting.”
~ Margot Kinberg, twitter review
“The main character Mike Brody is well developed and easy to love. Mike is an ex-military tracker/tour guide who has a knack for finding people. This ability is slightly supernatural, but mostly instinct and training. His ex-wife Jessica makes a sassy cohort and energentic sidekick. This is a classic, “I have no idea who done it, everyone seems like a suspect” book. I honestly had no idea which one did it until the final pages.
For a first book, I thought this was great. I think that Hilliard has the ability to make a great author. I am looking forward to reading more.”
~ Melissa Sheard, 3 1/2 star review on What A Book
“A Great Read”
“Hilliard is new on the mystery/thriller scene but he writes like a well-practiced pro. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right to the end.
His characters, including Mike Brody, are believable and well thought out. In fact, Hilliard gives you just enough background to suck you in, but not quite enough to completely slack your thirst for Brody . . . This book demands a sequel.
The dialogue throughout keeps the story moving and the “24” style time breaks that the author used in place of chapter breaks adds to the suspense. This is made for book groups (I’m recommending it to mine), plane trips, beach reading, or anytime you just want to curl up with a great read.”
~Avid Reader, 5 star review on Amazon.com