This is a fascinating read, ranging across a variety of topics. What makes a great salesman? Why do are some TV programs so addictive? How do some people remain occasional smokers without ever developing a daily habit? There’s also a chapter on the magic number 150 – how the military, communities and companies have found that once a unit exceeds 150 people you need to split into sub-groups in order to maintain the same levels of cohesion.
Category Archives: Book Review
This wasn’t a particularly memorable book – the main character is Tim Harding, a landscape gardener who finds himself chasing around the country investigating the theft of a historic ring and the death of a journalist, whilst also having an affair with the wife of a rich client. The shame of it is that there’s a gem of a plot hidden in this book, concerning the legend of the Grey Man of Ennor who supposedly had healing powers and cured people of the Black Death. His remains may still have the power to heal and are fiercely protected by local families on the Isles of Scilly.
As with the other Chris Ryan books that I’ve read, this one concerns the SAS. This time, though, it’s the SAS who are subject to a surprise attack – a training platoon mercilessly bombed by a well organised team, bent on revenge. The plot follows two experienced survivors from that day as they track down the perpetrators and aim to exact their own revenge. They are helped unofficially by the UK government, including the mysterious Cecilia Lakes – a senior official destined for greatness in the UK Intelligence Services.
This book follows a similar formula to The Afghan, by the same author. There’s a terrorist threat to the western world- extremists brainwashed by a radical cleric are murdering prominent public figures. A former US marine (codenamed The Tracker) must track down the preacher (codenamed The Preacher) who only posts online – and eliminate him. The Tracker recruits a young, supremely talented hacker to help locate the source of the inflammatory material – he is codenamed Ariel (disappointingly, not The Hacker!)
The constraints put in place by politicians make The Tracker’s job harder – even having located The Preacher, he cannot order a drone strike because it is a built up area. So begins an elaborate plot to bring The Preacher out of his ‘fortress’ into a remote area, where he can be attacked. First, he is discredited in the eyes of his followers, by hacking his website and posting a fake message recanting his previous statements. Second, he is informed by a trusted friend (actually Ariel, aka The Hacker) that a local warlord has kidnapped a westerner and is prepared to sell – executing the man would re-instate his fearsome reputation. Having set the bait, the tracker must recruit a lethal army unit to seek and destroy The Preacher at his meeting with the warlord.
It’s always a pleasure to find a Nelson DeMille in the charity bookshop, and this one was excellent. The main characters are Paul Brenner and Cynthia Sunhill, who are military investigators (the former for homicide, the latter for rape). Their back-story includes an affair in Zurich when they last met and the love/hate relationship resulting from that continues throughout the book.
There are many serious issues raised by this book (such as the role of women in the army and the cover-up of crime in order to avoid bringing the army into disrepute). The author gives Paul Brenner most of the narrative, though, and he is arguably not a character to investigate those bigger issues. His own concern is to find the guilty party and extricate himself and his career from the scene. As ever with books by DeMille, Brenner’s sense of humour and character have much in common with his regular hero, John Corey.
This is a Will Jaeger thriller, in which he battles to prevent the release of a deadly toxin that threatens global calamity, as well as continuing a long search to find his kidnapped wife and son. I haven’t read the first book in this series (Ghost Flight), but the story held together pretty well all the same.
The book had some exciting passages and was an enjoyable read, particularly the battles in the depths of the jungle and the heroics of Jaeger and his team – all areas where Grylls brings his expertise from the SAS to bear. Unfortunately, the climax to the story fell pretty flat for me. On the one hand, I’m willing to believe that a handful of special forces operatives can win a gun fight against a small army of mercenaries (!). On the other, I can’t believe that a source of immunity against a plague can be isolated from a blood specimen, turned into a vaccine, and mass-produced at world scale in just a small number of days/weeks. That incredible feat of bio-engineering certainly deserves more than seven lines in the epilogue (and that’s in a large font)!
This is another excellent thriller in Connelly’s Harry Bosch series – it also features his half-brother Micky Haller.
We follow two storylines. In the first, Bosch is haunted by a murder case that is under review. The convicted killer now claims that a vital piece of evidence, a necklace belonging to the deceased, was planted in his apartment by Bosch. In the second, Bosch is part of an investigation into a ‘live’ murder case of father and son pharmacists. A gang are organising wholesale distribution of prescription drugs, sending addicts to fraudulently obtain the drugs with the necessary paperwork provided by unscrupulous medics. Someone must infiltrate the gang by going undercover – but Bosch is torn because he also needs the time to clear his name for the case under review.
This book is a sequel to Cold Blood, which I hadn’t read. That meant I had little understanding about why the main character, Nick Stone, and his team were being hunted by the mysterious “Owl” and what intelligence they were hiding as leverage to keep themselves safe.
In my view, the editor of this book should have aggressively trimmed the preliminary material and jumped straight to the subject of this novel. That concerned a team of Soviet spies intent on intercepting digital information following through Cornwall, England, into the rest of Europe. Nick and his team are tasked with kidnapping Yulia, a key hacker in the Soviet team. They also need to take revenge on cyber criminals who stole thousands of pounds from Jack, one of their own team.
The sub-title of this book is “Secret diaries of a Junior Doctor”, because Adam Kay was for some years a doctor in the National Health Service. His stories are often hilarious but they also reveal just what stress the doctors and the NHS as a whole are under. He had a successful career as a doctor, including several promotions – but ultimately, the crazy demands of the job took its toll on his well-being as well as his relationships and he had to leave.
Suppose 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.