A month before the film starring Denzel Washington hits the big screen in late September, Michael Sloan’s The Equalizer novel debuts. Based on the character Robert McCall that Edward Woodward played for four seasons in the early 1980s, Sloan’s protagonist services in New York City when he breaks his “silence” and saves a prostitute from abuse by her pimp, and rekindles his desire for peacekeeping and violence. Before too long, McCall is up against a long-forgotten enemy, a shadowy Russian organization with its tendrils in the United States.
Sloan, known for his work on various television shows, delivers a strong novel that spans nearly five hundred pages, all of which are rich in background, clever dialogue, and explosive action. It’s not necessarily the “script” of the upcoming Denzel Washington headliner, given that McCall here is more Woodward (a younger version of Michael Caine) and the film will move the action to Boston. But it is that exciting, as McCall starts to realize that he can’t ignore the problems of those around him anymore.
Lurking on the sidelines is McCall’s old unit, The Company, a version of the CIA. Some of his old compadres still care about him, and they become partners in his efforts to free a Russian mother and daughter from the grip of a Russian who once tangled with McCall. Other less honorable side characters show up in the persons of the pimp who wants revenge, and a stalker who doesn’t recognize McCall cares for his target.
The cover echoes the old Equalizer tagline: “Got a problem? Odds against you?” but here, it seems that the odds can’t be beatable. There’s no way McCall can overcome all of that… can he? [I was having childhood flashbacks to The A-Team.] But that’s the spirit of the book that made it so amazingly engaging, as McCall hops from one fire to the next, putting them out with necessary (but not gratuitous) force. The only snag in the flow occurred when the novel flashed back to an old mission that involved the contemporary players, but it proved to shine a light on why McCall is, well, McCall.
I can’t wait to see the film, but this book is absolutely readable, a must for fans of Robert Ludlum, James Rollins, and Robert Parker. I think I’ll give it a year or two and read it again.