From Bell (Nick of Time, 2008, etc.), a James Bondish adventure brought up to date with Middle Eastern terrorists, Russian baddies and assorted other denizens of evil empires around the world.
Alex Hawke is a modern type, but not so modern that he’s given up smoking—or, even if he does read Susan Sontag, that he’s become new-age sensitive. He’s a reader and a thinker, a veteran of British intelligence and a counterterrorism expert of renown. He also bears the burdens of grief. As Bell tells us in a slightly hamfisted bit of exposition, Alex’s parents had been killed “at the hands of drug pirates when the boy was but seven” (which, doing the numbers, would put those drug pirates well ahead of the curve). To top that off, Alex’s true love has fallen victim to the endless struggle between good and evil—or, as he puts it: “My heart’s in the grave.” By rights he should be a basket case, but then comes a call from old pal Prince Charles (yes, that Prince Charles), who informs him that the bloke or blokes who did in his uncle Dickie Mountbatten are back, threatening to repeat their dastardly acts on Charles and his progeny. The plot thickens, involving a small army of walk-on characters, some from real life (think Princess Di and Dodi Fayed) and some from an ample supply of stock characters (for one, an all-wise, ever-patient manservant). Though many genre conventions are well in place, Bell has fun with his tale, allowing Hawke enough opportunities for mayhem and carnage as to embarrass the murderous James Bond of Quantum of Solace—as when, for instance, he dispatches a terrorist, “little more than a boy,” by slicing him apart with an assault knife. That’s exactly in character, and exactly what the situation called for.
A meaty, entertaining thriller, sometimes predictable, more often not—just the thing for fans of Ludlum, Trevanian and Fleming.