The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

The Hunt for Red October was the first techno-thriller novel by Tom Clancy. It was published in 1984 by the Naval Institute Press and the U.S. President, at the time, Ronald Reagan said of it, that he had enjoyed reading the book. I’m not surprised, it’s a real page-turner.

It’s a clever plot, with a lot of detail. Russian Naval Captain Marko Ramius, who is of Lithuanian descent, is at sea with his nuclear submarine. The sub is called Red October, hence the books name, and it is bristling with state-of-the-art ballistic missiles. The submarine utilises a silent propulsion system called the caterpillar drive. This means that audio detection by passive sonar is near impossible – this is deeply concerning for the Americans.

He appears to have gone rogue.

We first see a name, Jack Ryan, which we all know now. Jack Ryan works for the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst. Jack has a theory.  He believes that Ramius is intent on defecting to the United States.

Ramius kills the boats political officer, Ivan Putin, in case he tried to prevent him from defecting. He lies to the crew telling them that they are going to Cuba, but by this time the Russians are in hot pursuit having been notified of his plans by Ramius. The letter arrived after he had set sail.

The Russians pretend that they are on a search and rescue mission, but they will sink Red October if they have to.

As the Red October passes by Iceland whilst making its escape it comes close to the USS Dallas, a Los Angeles-class submarine. The American crew hear an unusual sound, the caterpillar drive, but they don’t initially think that it is as a submarine.

The Americans suspect the motives of the Russians and crews are on alert.

On the Dallas submarine the crew analyse the sonar tape again. They realise that what they heard was the new propulsion system of the Red October.

Jack Ryan then begins to work his magic.

Tom Clancy wrote many fantastic books in his career, but The Hunt for Red October has always been my personal favourite of his.

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Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean

Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean

Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean

Alistair Maclean died in 1987, but what a legacy he left behind.

Alistair MacLean wrote the novel, Where Eagles Dare, at the same time as he wrote the screenplay. The 1968 film was shot on location in Bavaria and Austria. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced this classic film with stars such as Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood and Mary Ure. Both the book and the film were a major success.

Out of interest, the title comes from Act I, Scene III in William Shakespeare’s play Richard III: ‘The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch’.

The plot has various twists and turns. During the winter of 1943 to 44 U.S. Army Brigadier General George Carnaby is captured by the Germans. He is said to be a chief planner for the Western Front. The Germans take him to Schloß Adler to be interrogated. The castle can only be accessed by cable car or by helicopter.

A British Major, John Smith and a U.S. Army Ranger Lieutenant, Morris Schaffer (Clint Eastwood) are instructed on their mission by Colonel Turner and Admiral Rolland of Britain’s MI6. They are to be parachuted into Germany disguised as German troops with a team of commandos. Their mission – to rescue Carnaby before he can be interrogated.  They are dropped by a captured German Ju-52 transport plane. Smith secretly contacts agents Mary Ellison and Heidi Schmidt. The other commandoes do not know of their existence. Heidi gets Mary a job as a secretary at the castle.

Two of the commandoes are killed in suspicious circumstances, though Smith decides to continue the operation. He works closely with Shaffer and informs London of what is happening.

The commandos surrender to the Germans and Smith and Schaffer are separated from the enlisted men. Smith and Schaffer quickly kill the Germans who are guarding them and then get their escape route ready. They ride on top of the cable car and then climb up a rope, lowered by Mary, into the castle.

Carnaby is being interrogated by General Rosemeyer and Standartenführer Kramer. When the three captured enlisted men arrive, they identify themselves as German double agents.

The plot then gets quite tricky to follow. But it is worth staying with it as it is ingenious.

Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean is a fantastic read and the film is a classic and one to watch over and over again. He is a great author in the style of Desmond Bagley and Hammond Innes.

Buy Where Eagles Dare from one of the worlds greatest authors and you will not be sorry.

The Firm by John Grisham

The Firm by John Grisham

The Firm by John Grisham

 

The Firm, by John Grisham, is a cleverly plotted work of legal fiction written by John Grisham and published in 1991. It was immensely successful and was then, in 1993, made into a film with Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tom Cruise, and Gene Hackman. The Firm also spawned a television series in 2012.

This was Grisham’s second work, following A Time To Kill which was published in 1989. After The Firm’s success his first book then came to prominence and was also hugely successful, being made into a film. The film A Time To Kill starred Matthew McConaughey, Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt, Donald Sutherland and Patrick McGoohan.

The name of the main character, Mitchell “Mitch” McDeere, must be ingrained into the minds of all lawyers and prospective lawyers in North America and beyond and especially to tax specialists.

The novel has terrific pace and great character development as it races through its cerebral path and cat and mouse chase.

John Grisham is one of the heavyweights in the written fictional word and rightly so.

McDeeres graduated with a top degree in accountancy and then went on to graduate, third in his class, from Harvard Law School. He had two brothers, one died in Vietnam and one is in prison, a fact he would rather keep quiet.

He is married to a school teacher, Abby.

Mitch gets a superb financial offer from a law firm in Memphis, Bendini, Lambert and Locke, a small tax law firm based in Memphis. After joining he is under great pressure to study and pass the bar exam. Mitch is assigned to the maverick partner, Avery Tolar.

Shortly before McDeere starts, Marty Kozinski and Joe Hodge, two of the lawyers in the firm are killed in the Caymans Islands, in a scuba diving accident. Mitch goes to the funerals and then finds out that three other lawyers who worked for the firm also died. His suspicions are aroused and he contacts a fiend of his brother, Eddie Lomax. Lomax is a private investigator and he agrees to start working the case.

Suspicious, he hires a private investigator, Eddie Lomax, an ex-cellmate of his brother Ray, to investigate the deaths of the attorneys.

Lomax is killed, but not before he warns McDeere to be careful. He had found out that the other three lawyers had also died suspiciously.

McDeere is targeted by an FBI agent, Wayne Tarrance. He finds out that the FBI are watching the firm.

McDeere goes to Washington, D.C. on a business trip where he is informed by the FBI that the firm is a front. It looks after the financial affairs of the Chicago Morolto crime family.

McDeere’s work has been honest thus far, but the lawyers are gradually enmeshed in the criminal side of the firm including tax fraud and money laundering operation.

The lawyers, once drawn in cannot leave, if they try to then they are killed.

Mitch finds out that Kozinski and Hodge were in contact with the FBI when they were murdered.

The firm’s security chief, DeVasher, becomes suspicious that he is getting involved with the FBI.

McDeere agrees to assist the FBI in return for 2 million dollars and his brother, Ray’s release from prison. Tammy Hemphill, Lomax’s secretary, helps McDeere to copy thousands of incriminating documents at great personal risk.

A leak in the FBI leaves McDeere exposed and he escapes stealing 10 million, as he does so, from one of the firm’s Grand Cayman bank accounts.

The FBI indicts many of the present and former members of Bendini, Lambert and Locke. They also indict a large group of suspected members of the Morolto family. The charges range from money laundering to, the not so sexy, mail fraud.

Mitch, Abby and Ray then live a contented life in the Caymans, living off the money.

John Grisham is an American attorney, politician and novelist specialising in legal thrillers. In an interview on the Charlie Rose show in 2016, Grisham said that his favorite author is John le Carré. The New York Times said of the book, ‘Mr. Grisham, a criminal defense attorney, writes with such relish about the firm’s devious legal practices that his novel might be taken as a how-to manual for ambitious tax-law students.’

John Grisham is one of my favourite authors and The Firm, one of my top picks for a holiday read.

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. A suprb thriller.

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

 

The Sunday Express said that this novel, Mr Mercedes by Stephen King, was’the best thriller of the year’.

Stephen King has written over fifty worldwide best-selling books. Mr Mercedes was the first novel of his to feature the character, Bill Hodges.

Several of Stephen Kings books have been made into films such The Shawshank Redemption.

King was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Mr Mercedes and won the prestigious Edgar Award for best novel for it. Mr Mercedes was also awarded the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014.

Stephen King has also been awarded the National Book Foundation Medal, the National Medal of Arts and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

No doubt, like many police officers Bill Hodges, cannot forget the cases that he couldn’t close. One particularly unpleasant case remains at the forefront of his mind. Early one morning at the opening of a jobs fair, eight people in the line-up of hundreds were killed.

They were killed by a madman who drove a stolen Mercedes into them. The deceased just wanted to improve their lives and the lives of their families on that morning and yet, their lives would cease that fateful day.

The horror of that day and the killer at large haunts Hodges. Then one day the fire is re-ignited in him. He receives a letter from someone claiming to be the killer. He says he will kill again.

Bill Hodges had never liked to see a criminal get away with a crime. He was intent that this killer would not repeat his crime, retirement or no retirement, he was going to get him!

Brady Hartsfield is intent on killing again, taunting Hodges just adds some spice to the event.  This time he is intent on killing many more.

Hodges and his buddies will do everything they can to catch the killer before it is too late.

This is a beautifully crafted novel with three dimensional characters and a fast paced, page turning plot from one of the masters of the craft.

Take the time to read this novel, Mr Mercedes, you will not be disappointed.

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King is available at World of Books.

The 18th Abduction by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

The 18th Abduction (Women's Murder Club - 18) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

The 18th Abduction (Women’s Murder Club – 18) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

 

James Patterson is a prolific writer having written 147 novels in his career and selling more than 300 million books. Though it may seem almost impossible to believe, he holds the New York Times record for the most number 1 New York Times Best sellers by an author – an incredible 67. A total of 114 of his novels have actually been in the list.

He has sold more novels than Dan Brown, Stephen King and John Grisham – all top authors in their own right.

Patterson was awarded the Literarian Award in 2015 by the National Book Foundation for his philanthropy in relation to books and reading.

James Patterson regularly works with highly respected co-authors such as Ashwin Sanghi, Candice Fox, Maxine Paetro, Andrew Gross, Mark Sullivan, Peter de Jonge and Michael Ledwidge and. He even co-authored with former U.S. President Bill Clinton writing the novel, The President Is Missing.

The 18th Abduction is another in the Women’s Murder Club series.

In San Francisco three schoolteachers disappear, all women. Soon the investigation becomes one of murder.

Detective Lindsay Boxer is under great pressure. Her husband, Joe Molinari, gets involved with a woman who has a startling revelation. She came from Eastern Europe and she says that she saw a high-profile war criminal from there in San Francisco.

The journalist, Cindy Thomas, researches the missing women and their backgrounds with startling discoveries. The woman who spoke to Joe unexpectedly disappears adding to the intrigue.

The threads of the mystery begin to merge and Lindsay, her husband Joe and the Women’s Murder Club combine their efforts to expose the international criminals at the root.

Believable, frightening and very readable.

The 18th Abduction by James Patterson is available to buy from Penguin books or Amazon. Between James Patterson and Maxine Paetro they have created a masterpiece in this fiction novel.

The Quantum Spy by David Ignatius

The Quantum Spy by David Ignatius

The Quantum Spy by David Ignatius

The Quantum Spy is the most recent offering from David Ignatius.

Ignatius is a novelist and a journalist from the USA.  He studied at Harvard University and King’s College, Cambridge in the UK. He has been given many awards including, the Urbino World Press Award from the Italians, a lifetime achievement award from the International Committee for Foreign Journalism and the Legion of Honour from the French.

David Ignatius is a best-selling author of such works as Body of Lies, The Bank of Fear and The Director. The Quantum Spy is a story of worldwide espionage, betrayal and high-tech.

In a world where technology races ahead exponentially, the threat of a super-fast quantum computer is ever more real.

CIA officer Harris Chang tracks a Chinese informant who may put the American’s top-secret research laboratories at risk.

The development of the quantum computer would put China or America in overall control for decades to come.

Ignatius has written a spellbinding thriller with action racing across the world, from North America and on to Mexico and Singapore.

This is a cyber thriller which may well foretell the future for us all. Well worth the read!

Die Trying by Lee Child

Die Trying by Lee Child

Die Trying, a novel featuring Major Jack Reacher, written by Lee Child.

 

Lee Child’s second novel, Die Trying, was published in 1998 featured Jack Reacher, centre stage, once more.

Whilst working as a doorman in Chicago Reacher becomes caught-up in the kidnapping of Holly Johnson, an FBI agent. She is also the daughter of a US Army general who is serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  They are both bundled into a truck and driven across the States for a reason and to a location unknown to them. Holly’s FBI colleagues take some time to notice her missing but then begin to try to piece together her movements and what has happened to her.

Reacher and Holly find on arrival in a remote part of Montana that they are being held by  the Montana Militia, whose leader is Beau Borken.

The intricate plot involves not only an FBI mole in the militia who has infiltrated them, but also a traitor within the FBI who supplies Borken information.

The President, fearful of another Waco type media catastrophe, does not want an outright assault and wishes the matter to be handled sensitively and carefully by the FBI and Army.

The novel is very well plotted and has the ability to keep the reader hooked and guessing. Lee Child is a true master of his craft. I found the novel immensely difficult to put down.

The Jack Reacher character, first introduced by Lee Child in Killing Floor, is sure to become an enduring hero in the mould of James Bond.

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Papillon by Henri Charrière

Papillon by Henri Charrière

Papillon by Henri Charrière

Papillon, was a bestseller when it was published in 1969 and who among us will not remember the Hollywood film of the same title which starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. Papillon, the French for butterfly, was a nickname that was given to Charrière and it also referred to his tattoo. It is a novel about the recollections of Henri Charrière and it describes his conviction, incarceration on and subsequent escape from a prison on Devil’s Island, which was a French penal colony off the coast of French Guiana.

The author, Charrière claimed that all of the events that he wrote of were true but this was later called into question. Though some of it clearly is true it is thought that some of the scenarios and adventures may have been distilled from the lives of his fellow inmates.

The book opens with Charrières conviction in France for murder of a pimp named Roland Le Petit and following a period in prison in Caen he was sent by ship to South America and onward to the notorious Devils Island. Papillon met a fellow inmate Louis Dega who had previously been a banker prior to conviction for counterfeiting. Papillon liked Dega and protected him from other inmates. The book spans a period of fourteen years of Papillon’s life up to 1945 and covers his hardships and various escape attempts.

Papillon a fascinating tale, particularly if it was all true, and gives a real insight into the brutalities of the time and the incredible tenacity and will power of Charrière. Well worth reading, even if you have seen the film which differs in part.

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An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

Many of us will have heard of ‘The Dreyfus Affair’ and will remember it as a distant memory from history classes as a child, but I suspect, like me, your remaining knowledge will be selective and riddled with holes and inconsistencies. Such a shame when you consider this pivotal time in French military and political history before the First World War. It gripped a nation at the time and the world more generally. This novel has modern day parallels in the forms of anti-Semitism and whistle-blowers.

The 2013 novel, An Officer and a Spy is a 2013 is a fictional thriller based on these dramatic events in French history. It is written by the supremely talented and diverse journalist and writer, Robert Harris. The novel recalls the true story of the head of counter-espionage, Colonel Georges Picquart, in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

There had been some disquiet about the conviction of Dreyfus for spying and his subsequent incarceration on Devils Island off the coast of South America. An island made famous in the novel Papillon which was written by convicted criminal, Henri Charrière. Picquart began to investigate the evidence against Dreyfus, who was from a Jewish background, which he found to be very weak and that the government and military had manufactured or altered crucial evidence. Picquart was pressured to forget his findings despite his assertion that the actual spy was still operating.

Anti-Jewish feeling was running high at that time and Dreyfus initially had little public support, but following an open letter published by the highly respected writer, Émile Zola, the tide began to turn. The letter, J’accuse, was published in a French newspaper in January 1898 and was a damming indictment of the whole affair – the rest is history….as they say!

The Harris book is the recipient of the Walter Scott Prize and the American Library in Paris Book Award, both in 2014.

Harris has researched many newly released documents and many of the original sources such as newspaper reports, the court transcripts and Dreyfus’s own written recollections. This is a thoroughly enthralling spy and political intrigue thriller made all the more captivating as it is based closely on fact. Picquart is shown as a principled man who strives to expose the truth despite overwhelming opposition from superiors and his peers. His fate is utterly intertwined with that of Dreyfus and so is his final judgement. An Officer and a Spy is a superb novel which brings great clarity to the subject and is utterly thrilling.

Robert Harris was born in Nottingham in central England in 1957. Following a career in television and as a journalist he came to prominence with his best-selling novel, Fatherland. He has subsequently published a succession of top novels including Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost which was made into a very effective and evocative film by Roman Polanski, The Fear Index and Dictator. He is, as you can see, a difficult man to pigeon-hole as his works are quite diverse and expertly crafted.

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Six Days of the Condor by James Grady

Six days of the Condor by James Grady

Six days of the Condor by James Grady

American, James Grady wrote the thriller Six Days of the Condor which was first published in 1974. Grady next released a further novel following this success in 1978 called the Shadow of the Condor. Six Days of the Condor was set in Washington, D.C., and varies greatly from the film that was made in 1975 with actors Robert Redford, Max von Sydow, Faye Dunaway and Cliff Robertson.

The film, for some reason was titled Three Days of the Condor and seems to be the better known name.

Grady has written a clever, intricate novel that has a clever and believeable premis. The character, Ronald Malcolm’s job is to read the spy and mystery novels and to analyse their content and report on it. Do people really get paid for this as it’s a job made in heaven for me! Anyway, Malcolm is actually working for the CIA and is based in a secret office in Washington, D.C. By chance, Malcolm goes for lunch using an exit in the basement. On his return Malcolm finds that all of his collegaues have been shot and killed. He knows that he has had a lucky escape and that he is in danger and he immediatly calls a contact at the CIA headquarters.

On calling Malcolm gives his code name, Condor, and is ordered to meet CIA operatives. However, he fortunately survives a trap and goes on the run.

Malcolm has no where to hide and at random kidnaps a paralegal called Wendy Ross who he entreats to assist him….

I don’t want to give away too much. This is a great read in the classic style and well worth taking to the beach or on a commuter train.

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