Thriller roundup

A roundup of recently released thrillers.

NIGHTFALL BERLIN
Jack Grimmond
Penguin Random House

Reviewed by Ted Fox

Nightfall Berlin is the second thriller to feature Major Tom Fox. Here he is on the wrong side of the Berlin wall without any papers or allies, on the run, suspected of murder and coping with the paranoia and bleakness of a 1986 East Berlin.

Ordered to arrange the smooth repatriation of a defector, Tom is smuggled into East Berlin, where it soon becomes clear there is more to the mission than an old man wishing to return home to die.

It is a fact viciously confirmed when Fox's mission is compromised.

Hunted by Stasi agents and wanted for murder by those on both sides of the Wall, he has to escape capture and get out alive.

A gripping thriller that goes deep into the icy heart of the Cold War, exploring dark places on the way.

Ted Fox is an online marketing and social media consultant

 

THE BLOOD ROAD

Stuart MacBride
HarperCollins

Reviewed by Mike Crowl

It apparently never stops raining in Aberdeen - at least not over the few days this book covers. I am not sure when anyone manages to dry off.

And almost all the supporting cast of policemen and women are strange or plain stupid. No wonder the hero, Logan McRae, is continually frustrated by their incompetence and by the insubordination of some of them, especially Rebecca Steel, with whom he has history.

It is also not surprising that the general public do not have much time for them, and why there are several scenes where the police are abused for not finding the children missing in a string of child abductions.

On the other hand, they have some drastic crims to deal with in this story, and several of the police wind up with bleeding noses, and broken bits.

The story begins with a man who had committed suicide a couple of years ago turning up dead - again. But that's only a part of the plot. Stuart MacBride spends the first 100 pages or so adding more and more layers to the story until you wonder how he is going to reconcile everything.

By the time he reaches the climax, the book is rattling along at a breathless pace.

I haven't read any others in this series - this is the 13th - but would be keen to on the basis of this one, despite some of the grim events (described in grim detail), the rank cadavers, the brutal murders, the smelliness of a lot of the people and some of the places, and the subject matter: paedophilia.

All this grimness, and the rain and the depressing suburbs, is lightened by ongoing humour. The characters have wonderful and inventive turns of phrase, and MacBride is a dab hand at describing things in fresh ways.

 

ULTIMATUM
Frank Gardner
Penguin Random House

Reviewed by Mike Crowl

The plot involves rogue Iranians refusing to kowtow to the West's demands for the country to be free of nuclear weapons. Luke Carlton, in his second book, is the undercooked MI6 spy who is supposed to be the man on the ground to stop events escalating. Things do not go according to plan, as you would expect.

Dozens of characters plan all the operations back in London; oodles of acronyms, all of which are explained in detail. There are piles of organising behind the scenes.

Somehow, it is all only mildly interesting. Gardner obviously knows, in detail, all the more mundane things that would happen in circumstances such as occur in this story, and alternates the exciting stuff with scenes set in various Whitehall offices.

These scenes tend to take away from any tension the main story builds, especially as the political and military chiefs who inhabit these places all have forgettable names, and do not stand out from one another. Gardner doesn't have much of a knack for characterisation; his hero, Luke Carlton, is bland and unengaging. Carlton has his qualms and concerns, but we never feel energised by him as a protagonist.

Thankfully, the two main female characters are slightly more interesting, and at least show some spunk, and the hostage - a senior Government minister and a man used to being mollycoddled rather than being captured by virtual terrorists - is someone we can find some empathy with.

Overall, the book provides good reading for a plane trip. There are two or three well-written sections that show that Gardner can do the job when needed, but these are surrounded by a lot of padding.

Mike Crowl is a Dunedin author, musician and composer

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