Genre: Adventure / Crime / Mystery
Fun Manchu Books are rather weird. They are enjoyable for sure if you read them as over-the-top conspiracy novels. However, their racist and sexist nature can make some of us uncomfortable. This might result in reviews and ratings that are quite unjustified.
Daughter of Fu Manchu, fourth book in the series, is yet another great thriller from Sax Rohmer. This novel originally appeared in twelve instalments in Collier’s Magazine. It is a bit different from the other books in the series; the focus is on his half-Russian daughter, Fah Lo Suee.
Mysterious events unfold at an archaeological site in Egypt. Fu Manchu is supposed to be dead, but the case has uncanny similarities with the ones where Fu Manchu was involved. Soon our hero takes on Fah Lo Suee and towards the end Fu Manchu himself turns up.
Like the other Fu Manchu novels, this one too is marked by a sinister plot and swift pace. The fatal attractions include mummy tombs, exotic poisons, zombie drugs, and enigmatic oriental death cults. If you believe in books that are so-bad-that-they-are-good, then try this out. It’s a cheap, racist, on-the-edge page turner.
Darn it! Who wants to be politically correct?
The Master Magician by Loring Brent
Slaves of Sumuru by Sax Rohmer
Genre: Crime/Hardboiled/Detective Fiction
Did you think Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest was the most shocking piece of crime fiction you ever read? Try Jonathan Latimer’s Solomon’s Vineyard. Horrific animalistic motives, gruesome events, creepy characters and unapologetic sex will smoke Hammett to ashes.
A noir tale. A classic example of hardboiled detective novel.
A private dick comes to town to rescue a wealthy heiress and avenge the death of his partner. He stumbles upon a cult group whose leader, long dead, seems to rule from his grave. Our dick fights a bloody war with a mob boss and crosses path with a femme fatale.
Latimer, quite clearly, is a no-nonsense writer. He gets down to business right away without wasting time. Graphic violence, ethnic slurs, moral ambivalence, booze and guns combine together to form something outrageously offensive. And for this very reason, the story becomes diabolically entertaining. Not for the faint-hearted.
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
This is the second thriller I read this week from a debut novelist. And just like Kill with a Borrowed Knife, it turned out to be an awesome ride. Let’s take a look at Bryce Allen’s The Spartak Trigger.
Shane Bishop is an amoral cop turned set-up artist. He has become an expert in framing people for criminal offenses in lieu of money. But Shane’s luck runs out as he is outsmarted by a government agent and the ex-cop gets framed for what turns out to be a high profile murder.
Shane’s only hope to get out of the situation rests with a piece of crucial evidence, but he is forced into high risk espionage jobs. He finds himself in mortal danger as he deals with a Russian extremist group and tries to retrieve a computer program that can wipe out the World Wide Web.
What is Spartak Trigger
The US developed an extensive network of communications system in response to Russia’s Sputnik. However, they had no idea that a Russian agent had set up a self-destruct code that can cripple the entire communications system including the Internet. Gentlemen, welcome to the secret of the Spartak Trigger.
What’s so good
The Spartak Trigger follows typical Russian-European thriller style, but it doesn’t feel cliché. For a debut novelist, Mr. Allen delivers a surprisingly decent dose of twist and turns. The plot does seem a bit implausible at times, but it keeps the readers well hooked till the end. Most importantly, the author exhibits fantastic story telling skills.
The characterization is done with a high degree of dexterity. Particularly Shane’s character is extremely well developed and believable.
Thriller fans won’t be disappointed.
About the author:
Bryce Allen was born in Atlantic Canada in the early-1980s. He graduated from the University of King’s College in 2004 with a BA in History and currently resides in the United States.
Tired of 007? Michael Wreford brings you a brand new MI6 contract agent — George Quant — with sharp claws and deadly intelligence. Nope, you’ll be missing the cold war politics here for Wreford’s Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is a thriller primarily set in China. Quant doesn’t fight authoritarian despots or space attacks backed by some insane crime genius. This top notch thriller focuses on cyber terrorism.
What’s the story
Quant, a journalist and a freelance MI6 agent, arrives in Beijing to find himself in a deceptive world of spies. He is a fugitive and doesn’t know who to trust. Quant is carrying a DVD labelled as “Citadel” — an antivirus programmed to fight against a unique virus that can attack major networks across the globe with extreme precision. He is the only man who can stop the attack, but odds are heavy and the web of conspiracy around him is intricate and strangulating. Quant is left with difficult choices in the face of extreme danger.
What’s so good
The trademark sign of a good thriller is its pace. Kill with a Borrowed Knife runs faster than a Japanese bullet train. Considering the non-linear plot structure, this is quite surprising. There are flashbacks that throw light on past events from Quant’s life, his relation with a Moscow-based handler called Karen, and developments in Phnom Penh and London. Nonetheless, the interest in the plot never drops.
The characters are remarkably well sketched and multi-layered. The dirty dealings, shady characters in the world of international espionage are delineated meticulously. The dialogues are cool and authentic with touches of Chinese, Russian and French phrases, which make things more credible and believable.
The best thing about Quant is that he is not an invincible superspy like James Bond. The guy is a normal human being vulnerable to attacks and bleeds like any of us.
This is a fun read and recommended for fans of the genre.
About the author
Michael Wreford is the pen name of two authors who collaborated on their debit novel. They are experts in Chinese and International relations and have lived in Beijing, The Hague, Hong Kong, New York, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
Thanks to Frederick Forsyth, Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, the last 100 years had had its share of cold war espionage novels. While CIA, MI6, and KGB kept us highly entertained, maybe we need a break from the familiar landscapes of US, Britain and Russia. How about an intriguing plot involving Israel and Singapore with a touch of Cairo? Khaled Talib, in his debut novel, brings you a cold blooded and action packed world of espionage different from the conventional thrillers.
Jethro Westrope, a journalist, accidentally learns about an international conspiracy that involves the assassination of the Prime Minister of Israel. However, he is falsely accused of murder and someone tries to use him as a smokescreen to divert attention from the actual sinister plot. Jet struggles against mighty odds and finds in himself situations that are out of his control. But he has to stop the assassination or else lose his life to serve someone else’s purpose.
“You’re just the unlucky guy chosen to die” Jet is told. He is to be blamed for the assassination of the Prime Minister. Can Jet survive?
What’s so good
“Smoke clouded the man’s face like a Tuareg’s desert veil as he exhaled a long, apple-scented plume from the sheesha’s looping pipe. It bolstered the disguise he wore in the languid summer afternoon at El Fishawy Café in Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili souk district: a fake moustache and a thick goatee that seemed to make his round chin smile more, a pair of dark metal-framed sunglasses, a long-flowing brown galabeya, and a white turban.”
The setting and storyline is fresh, and this comes as a welcome change in a genre quite saturated with clichés. The exotic feel of the thriller gets you excited from the very beginning. A combination of Israel, Singapore and Egypt can hardly go wrong, eh?
Khaled’s attention to details, comprehensive knowledge of local culture and political machinery makes the plot completely believable. The characters look real and the dialogues are carefully crafted. Cunning spies, merciless assassins, shady politicians — Smokescreen is nothing less than a Hollywood blockbuster. Khaled’s sharp sense of humor adds to the fun.
Smokescreen, with its fast pace and Jason Bourne like situations, will remind you of Ludlum’s novel. Khaled said in an interview that he was fascinated with The Bourne Identity. Smokescreen could have easily been a rip-off of the classic thriller but to his credit, Khaled succeeds in making his novel something different. Jet is not a trained killer like Bourne. He is a common journalist forced into the world of Bourne. And that makes his adventure so sublime.
Khaled Talib, a former journalist and a full time writer, has made an impressive debut. We will be waiting for more from him.
Smokescreen at Amazon.
Gérard de Villiers, one of the bestselling thriller writers of all time, passed away a couple of weeks back. The 83 year old French writer died of cancer.
His spy thrillers — Son Altesse Sérénissime aka SAS — serve as an example of one of the longest running series in the history of espionage fiction. De Villiers wrote 200 SAS novels, which sold more than 150 million copies and were translated into several languages. SAS novels always had provoking covers — usually a semi-nude female clutching a gun.
When Ian Fleming died in 1964, De Villiers tried to take his place with his brand of espionage thrillers. His protagonist Malko Linge is a Austrian aristocrat, who acts as a freelance agent for the CIA and embarks on perilous missions across the globe. Like Bond, he is vulnerable to femme fatales. SAS novels have a heavy dose of sex and gunplay, but are somewhat different from Bond books in terms of style.
De Villiers had a lot of sources in intelligence agencies, which gave him crucial information about real life espionage. His journalistic background gave him a thorough geopolitical knowledge too. So it’s not surprising that his books, though formulaic, were too close to reality and often mentioned events like assassination of the President of Egypt before the actual incident took place.
De Villiers was often accused by the critics of extreme right wing views, racism, and cheap entertainment. He was kind of sad about this; once he said “They cannot ignore me, but they have given me no recognition.” De Villiers’ success in English-language market was limited, and his books were never made into Hollywood blockbusters. But if globally considered, he was a publishing sensation and had success few writers in the genre could achieve.
Hopefully, we shall have new translations of his novels soon enough. Sleep well Mr. De Villiers.