“Book Review: Tooth for Tooth”
Reviewed by Joseph Haeger
A thrilling sequel with more compelling twists, turns, and suspense than its predecessor
J.K. Franko created a tall order for himself when he ended Eye for Eye—the first entry in the Talion series—with reveals, cliffhangers, and the death of a major character. When I picked up Tooth for Tooth, I expected to jump directly back into the story of murder, lust, and deceit, but Franko flips that momentum on its head. He introduces us to a tight new thread about to permeate the novel, and this risky move pays off. It piques my readerly interest even more than if I would have gone straight right back into it. From this moment on, Franko has me hooked.
Tooth for Tooth follows the main players from Eye for Eye and introduces some new ones. It weaves between a handful of perspectives, including Roy and Susie who are planning another murder of a former politician while in Europe. And Slipknot, an old military buddy of Joe Harlan Sr., and Kristy Wise are following their own clues to personal and big-picture problems. As these characters hunt and discover more about the paths they’re on, they begin to overlap and play bigger roles in each other’s threads. Sometimes this works to their benefits, and other times, it’s deadly.
Tooth for Tooth takes what Eye for Eye does and ratchets it all up. Each character is on a quicker and more intense emotional rollercoaster, but at no point do I feel like the pace is too fast or like we skim over important moments. The mysteries here aren’t as obvious, and I am taken off guard by some of the reveals—namely Deb’s killer and the connection to the ex-politician. Surprises like these keep me reading at a ravenous speed. As a reader, I want to savor each and every duplicitous turn.
My biggest complaint about the first book was the presence of the detectives and how I didn’t feel like they added enough value. I wanted a better sense of good vs evil, and the best way to do that was to go deeper with certain characters. Instead, Tooth for Tooth gives the detectives even less, but makes up for it by blurring morality. I think this is an even better move.
There aren’t necessarily good or bad guys—rather, we have a bunch of characters who fall on a spectrum of ethics. They’re trying to live up to whatever personal integrity they’ve decided upon throughout their lives. Occasionally I sympathize with them, and other times, I don’t. But regardless, this is fascinating because we’re not rooting for anyone in particular, but instead we objectively watch how these people interact with the world.
Like The Godfather II or The Dark Knight, Franko’s second entry surpasses the first in almost every way. It’s a tightly written thriller, and I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the book. The stakes have been raised as Franko introduces new themes, but nothing feels forced—it’s all authentic to the story being told.
Tooth for Tooth is an overall terrific response to the first book. It shows that revenge and violence begets revenge and violence begets revenge and violence and so on. I can only imagine what twists come next in the finale of the Talion series, and I anxiously await its arrival.
Paperback: 418 pages
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