"Nomad" James Swallow
Nomad Marc Dane is a MI6 field agent at home behind a computer screen, one step away from the action. But when a brutal attack on his team leaves Marc as the only survivor - and with the shocking knowledge that there are traitors inside MI6 - he's forced into the front line. However the evidence seems to point towards Marc as the perpetrator of the attack. Accused of betraying his country, he must race against time to clear his name. With nowhere to turn to for help and no one left to trust, Marc is forced to rely on the elusive Rubicon group and their operative Lucy Keyes. Ex US Army, Lucy also knows what it's like to be an outsider, and she's got the skills that Marc is sorely lacking. A terrorist attack is coming, one bigger and more deadly than has ever been seen before. With the eyes of the security establishment elsewhere, only Lucy and Marc can stop the attack before it's too late.
I was really pleased to receive this book from the publishers, Bonnier Zaffre. The quotes that accompanied the press release included "an intelligent, likeable, believable hero faced with a credible threat.......accelerating towards a terrifying conclusion," and "a white-knuckle, lip-chewing thriller". I couldn't wait to make a start.
This book redefines the phrase "fast paced". It is absolutely loaded with action, characters and continuous unfolding drama and excitement. I had been expecting something a little bit more gentle - the words "espionage" suggesting James Bond or a more traditional Spy thriller but this is so much more. It is highly sophisticated and presented with incredible detail that it is highly credible and indeed realistic. For me, it compares more with "Bourne Identity" and "Homeland" - with a plot line and cast of characters that demands your full attention and draws you in to a complex web of terrorism, MI6, national intelligence agencies and military contractors. The narrative is very fluent and moves at speed, the reader immediately dragged into the action and despite the number of scenarios, locations, characters and events introduced rapidly in the opening chapters, Swallow's confident and clear style ensures it's accessible and easy to follow rather than overwhelming.
It is a long book. The hardback seemed particularly daunting as it can't hide the reality of how long 487 pages is in the way a kindle can -and I must admit, it did make me a little apprehensive - particularly as I couldn't just slip it in my bag and read discreetly. But I need not have worried. Within moments, I was right there and before long I felt like I was settled in the cinema watching a compelling action thriller. The chapters are relatively concise and with several changes in location and story threads, the reader easily makes progress through the pages.
Terrorism is a contentious and controversial subject - perfect for writers and film makers alike. As Swallow writes in the beginning of the story, "terrorism in Europe was a cancer spreading without concern for borders or nation states." It is probably the thing most feared by the public. Swallow's novel shows us how complex radical terrorist organisations are, how difficult they are to fight and how deeply threatening they can be due to the pure drive and conviction of those behind them. It shows us how large these organisations are - as well as the organisations trying to fight them - and it was quite an insight. As with all current espionage thrillers, particularly one dealing with extremists, there is a colossal amount of violence in the book; killings, guns, weaponry, constant threats of death or injury hanging over each word spoken and every action taken. It is a brutal world, full of risk. For me, this was a little overwhelming but I know plenty of friends who would devour this sort of storyline and will be recommending it to them!
There is a lot to keep a handle on, but it is all cleverly interwoven and pulled together with skill. I liked the main protagonist Mark Dane who, as Ben Aaronovitch said, is likeable and believable. This is not usually something I would choose to read and therefore I might have struggled to keep track of things a little more than someone who enjoys this genre, but I certainly recognise the quality of this book and hope it receives the accolade it deserves.
My thanks to Bonnier Zaffre and their generosity in sending me a copy in return for a fair review. You can also read more from James Swallow on my recent post where he took part in a Q&A session with me.
Swallow has 15 years of experience in fiction, television, radio and journalism and this is very obvious. You can follow him on Twitter @jmswallow or jamesswallow.blogspot.co.uk
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