This was his penance: The Cleaver was his Marley, except every day instead of just Christmas.
Judd didn't have what it took to make it as a Navy SEAL. Not only did he fail in his attempt to take the grade, he almost took out his infamous trainer, The Cleaver, in the process by shooting him in the legs and chest during a training exercise.
Now Judd is full of guilt. He's cut off ties with his father, hates his civilian job and is constantly haunted by The Cleaver who is now a drunken shadow of his former self and turns up like a bad cent whenever the sun goes down.
The only things that keep him going are hard, fast and dangerous cycling and the time he spends video messaging a rather cute Scottish lass called Cat. The cycling's all about getting away from everything and has the added bonus of the possibility of suicide by pedalling. Cat, on the other hand, offers something like hope. The chance that his life might not be over, after all.
When Cat suggests that Judd go over to Scotland for a cycling holiday, it's too good an offer for him to resist. He jacks in his job, cuts the physical ties to Minnesota and sneaks away from his conscience-pricking war-vet millstone while he's not paying attention.
What follows is difficult to sum up without spoiling things for you when it's your turn. Suffice to say, Cat isn't everything Judd expected. Her bike is barely fit for the road and she can't ride for toffee. More confusingly, she's uninterested in a physical relationship with Judd and plies him with enough beer and whisky to make sure that sex is out of the question. There's also a sticky issue of her other boyfriend, a rather disturbed young man who is sicker than rabies.
Cleaver, left at home with little left to fill his time now Judd has gone, smells a rat. He fears Judd might be another in a long line of SEAL suicides and decides he can't let that happen. He responds in the only way he understands, with a covert operation designed to protect his fellow countryman.
In The Cyclist (US), there's plenty of action for adrenaline junkies. There are also some great observations about the little differences between Scotland and the US. The Judd/Cleaver relationship is complex and compelling and their undulating loyalties are like a journey through the Highlands themselves.
Pain equals fuel. He had a full tank.
Twists, turns, shocks and toe-curling brutality all play their part as this one free-falls with alarming pace to it's climax. A must for the fan of the action thriller, a no-go area for the faint-hearted.
A smashing summer read.