Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Afghan, Frederick Forsyth

TheAfghanSuppose intelligence discovered that a terrorist organisation was planning a fresh atrocity that would shock the world, but had no further leads to prevent it. Then it might be appropriate to take the longest of shots – send an agent into Iraq to infiltrate that organisation at a senior level, in the hope that the secret is shared with him.

So it happens that Mike Martin, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is sent to impersonate The Afghan (Izmat Khan), a war hero supposedly returned from prison in Guantanamo. He is accepted as a member of the Taliban, thanks to his genuine background from growing up in the region and intensive coaching on the religion and customs of the area. But the real mission is to learn about the planned atrocity and to intervene.

It’s a clever plot, if necessarily far fetched – I’d read the book some years ago and it was good on re-reading.
Four stars

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Book Review: The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton

Andromeda StrainThis book is set in the early days of the space race. Scientists have assessed the risk of previously unknown organisms being released on Earth (either alien bacteria brought back to Earth by rockets or Earth-bound organisms changed by exposure to the environment of space). The result is Wildfire – an underground facility with multiple levels of increasing levels of sterilisation, in which the scientists would research any such contaminated material.

The plot is that a satellite has indeed brought back some terrible disease that has killed many people in the vicinity by solidifying their blood. This include two soldiers sent to retrieve the satellite – but there are two survivors, a baby and an old man. The scientists are summoned to the Wildfire bunker to investigate the nature of the disease and the book tells the story of their tests and endeavours as if from a retrospective.

Reviews of this book frequently admit that the reader was convinced that the story was true – I had that impression too, particularly given the fake acknowledgements to those ‘who encouraged me to tell the story accurately and in detail’ at the start of the book and the heavily academic bibliography at the end.
Four stars

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Book Review: A Legacy of Spies, John leCarre

I was given a lovely hardback edition of this book for my birthday. Whilst this book stands alone, I’m sure I miss much of the sentiment portrayed by the lead character, Peter Guillaume, because I haven’t read any of the George Smiley series before.

There are two main storylines. In the present day, Guillaume is interrogated by the British Secret Service as to his role in Windfall, a cold war operation. The Service is being sued for negligence by descendants of two dead agents – Guillaume is still liable even decades after the event. In the past, we follow Guillaume’s life as an agent from his recruitment through to working with his best friend Alec and the resulting fiasco that took Alec’s life.

The story is beautifully told and reveals its secrets piece-by-piece as if we’re viewing it through a fuzzy lens – perhaps as the cold war agents would have discovered the information themselves.

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Book Review: The Lost Fleet – Valiant, Jack Campbell

This book follows the same template as the other Lost Fleet books that I’ve read. We travel with Captain “Black Jack” Geary on Dauntless, the flag ship of his fleet, as he attempts to steer his people home after a damaging series of battles. This episode is more optimistic, the fleet is performing well in battle and Geary’s efforts to bring a humane change in culture to the personnel is succeeding (they rescue stranded enemy civilians who had been abandoned on an outpost planet). However, he still faces the growing threat of hidden enemies within the leadership who are still trying to overthrow him. Geary confronts the fact that he cannot continue to court Co-President Victoria Rione now that his growing feelings for Captain Tanya Desjani are obvious to everyone in his crew.
Three stars

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Book Review: The Fix, David Baldacci

TheFixI really enjoyed the first in David Baldacci’s Amos Decker series, so was looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at the same level – a completely implausible plot, combining industrial espionage with an international spy ring, terrorism and family betrayal.
TwoStars

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Book Review: The Closers, Michael Connelly

I bought this book from a charity book shop, so it could have come anywhere in the timeline of the Harry Bosch series. I was quite amused that this one heralds Bosch coming out of retirement to work in the Open-Unsolved Unit of the LAPD – the last book that I read in this series was when he came out of retirement after he’d left the Open-Unsolved Unit!

Bosch and partner Kiz Rider are assigned to investigate the murder of a schoolgirl many years before. The case is being reviewed in the light of DNA evidence – they hope that blood on the murder weapon will lead them to the killer. As might be expected, they witness the devastating effect the crime had on the girl’s mother and father. The mother’s life is on hold years later, waiting for resolution. The father has lost his career and is homeless – but Bosch tracks him down. He finds that the man blames himself for letting his daughter down, having been scared off from asking questions about the investigation by senior members in the LAPD.

Whilst the investigation necessarily follows the car mechanic whose blood was found on the gun, the investigators know that he may not be the killer. They need to link him to the girl somehow – probing attendance at the same school or overlapping social circles in the town. Yet, none of the girl’s friends recognise the man.

Four Stars

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Book Review: The Midnight Line, Lee Child

This is the 22nd book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series and it continues where the 20th book, Make Me, finished. Any hope that Reacher’s collaborator in the previous book, Michelle Chang, would feature again were immediately dashed – but Reacher does work with an ad- hoc team in this one, and those tend to be the best of his adventures.

The premise of the book is that Reacher sees a small West Point ring in a pawn shop and decides to track down the (presumed female) owner and return it to her. Being an alumni himself, he feels a duty to help someone down on their luck. He allies himself with a detective, Terry Bramall, who also happens to be looking for the owner of the ring – employed by the beautiful sister of the owner. Finding the woman is only the beginning – the issues causing her to pawn the ring (battlefield injuries and drug addiction) are far harder to solve.

The next book in the series will be called Yesterday.

Four stars

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