This thriller is set in the first Gulf War: Saddam invades Kuwait and SAS man Mike Martin goes undercover into Kuwait to organise resistance. Meanwhile his stay-at-home brother, an Arabist, investigates the secrets of Saddam's secret Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Mossad have a high-placed source at the top of the Iraqi government and Mike Martin is transferred into Baghdad to run dead letter boxes and transmit information back to the waiting troops. Will Saddam's secret weapons be neutralised before the Allied invasion?
There are a lot of characters and a lot of threads and all of them run together: there are rather too many coincidences. Did Mike Martin, practising dressing as a Bedouin on the day before the invasion, really have to have his photograph taken by the mother of the USAF pilot who he would later rescue who is also the pilot who kills one of his old schoolfriends who just happens to be behind Saddam's WMD programme? And does it have to be his brother who is the brilliant Arabist who solves the conundrums in London while Mike does the derring-do? All a little too convoluted and unnecessary: some tighter editing would have made this a better book. And there is a great deal of detail. At times this reads like a lecture on the history of the War and its associated military technology and the military structures of the various parties. Detail adds verisimilitude but there were times when yet another page of information rather got in the way of the story.
I was perhaps most interested in the sub-plot of the Mossad agents trying to steal security details from a Viennese bank by seducing the secretary. But that was a totally unnecessary sub-plot and could have been removed without damaging the story in any way.
And I am still not convinced by the unmasking of the villain. Clearly it couldn't be who we thought it was because that was revealed far too early but pinning it on someone else at the last moment leaves too many questions unanswered.
Nevertheless, once I had got into it I read it in a great burst. But it is just a thriller. There is little concern for character. Even with all the details and the weaving in of real persons and events it is difficult to suspend disbelief. It is so much less convincing that his earlier works: The Day of the Jackal and The Dogs of War.
Disappointing. October 2013; 492 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57