The worst thing about Aaron Philip Clark’s “A Healthy Fear of Man” (Shotgun Honey) is that it’s not “The Science of Paul”. What I mean by this is that Clark’s “A Healthy Fear of Man”, instead of being great, is merely very good. I know, it’s an odd criticism, but one I’ll stand by.
“A Healthy Fear of Man” begins a few months after “The Science of Paul” ends and the protagonist has reached his destination, the hills of North Carolina. The readers of the first book will be unsurprised that Paul has not found happiness he imagined at the home of his dead grandfather. It’s not so much that his memories haunt him, it’s that Paul hasn’t resolved any of his internal struggles. It is in the first quarter to third of “A Healthy Fear of Man” that the second Paul Little novel flirts with greatness. Unlike it’s predecessor which successfully combined the crime fiction elements and a fine character study, it is when a body is found on Paul’s property that “A Healthy Fear of Man” focuses more on crime fiction story rather than Paul’s development.
I need to pause here because “A Healthy Fear of Man” is far better than most crime fiction books released lately and its only problem is one that most authors would love to have: merely very good but not great. A recent example would be Don Winslow’s “The Force”. Is it as good as “The Power of the Dog”? Hell, no. Was “The Force” one of the better books released last year? Damn straight. My recommendation is to read “The Science of Paul”, bask in its greatness, and then read “A Healthy Fear of Man” and enjoy it for what it is, a very good crime fiction read.