Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Review: I, Sniper by Stephen Hunter

Book Review:  I, Sniper by Stephen Hunter

Simon & Schuster, December 2009
Hardcover, 432 pages
ISBN-10: 1416565159
ISBN-13: 9781416565154

Bob Lee Swagger is an aging sniper, a Vietnam vet, a man with a legendary intuition for guns.  He states up front that his subjects and verbs aren’t going to agree, that he’d rather be just about anywhere other than Washington, DC, that he doesn’t read the paper—he gets his news from Fox.  When a fellow sniper is framed for the murders of four ‘60s anti-war radicals, Swagger becomes involved despite his own reluctance to enter the fray once again, at his age, with a bum hip.

Stephen Hunter, author of I, Sniper and several other books about Bob Lee Swagger and his father, Earl Swagger, clearly respects guns and the many people in this country who love them and know how to use them.  The ignorance of the average East Coast journalist on this subject even becomes a significant plot point in the novel.  Woe unto anyone who judges Swagger’s intelligence by his accent or his cowboy attire.

Despite the cultural divide Hunter spotlights in this novel, even a latte-loving Blue State elitist can appreciate this taut, suspenseful thriller.  The detailed descriptions of various models of weapon, scope, etc. may be lost on a reader lacking firearms expertise, but the story never bogs down in these descriptions; instead, they give the tale an added element of authenticity, because these are exactly the sort of details Bob Lee Swagger would know and care about. 

While Swagger travels around the country uncovering the truth about the murders that take place in the novel’s opening scenes, Nick Memphis, an up and coming FBI agent, must deal with immense political and bureaucratic pressure to close the high-profile case.  Hunter --who was until recently a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Washington Post-- provides a sharply critical glimpse into the interaction between the private sector, government and the media as Nick’s refusal to close the case prematurely threatens his career.

Ultimately, it is Nick’s faith in Swagger that is tested, as Swagger takes action where the FBI can’t and applies his unique skills to administer justice.  Gripping until the very last pages, I, Sniper is non-stop action adventure and a fascinating read.

For more on Stephen Hunter, see

  • Genre: Thriller
  • Read it if:  you love suspense, action, conspiracies or Marty Robbins songs
  • Skip it if:  you are squeamish or Jane Fonda
  • Movie-Worthy:  Definitely.  I’d like to see Chris Cooper as Bob Lee Swagger, Colin Farrell as Anto Grogan.

No comments: