Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Daughter of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Daughter of Fu Manchu Sax Rohmer

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.

The Story

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.

The Style

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?

Similar Books:

The Master Magician by Loring Brent

Slaves of Sumuru by Sax Rohmer

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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer

 

Jonathan Latimer’s Solomon's Vineyard

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.

The Story

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.

The Style

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.

Rating ****

Similar Books

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book review: The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen

The Spartak Trigger Bryce Allen

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.

The story

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.

The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen on Amazon

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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai by Michael Wreford

 Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent AiTired 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.

Wreford’s Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai on Amazon

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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Smokescreen by Khaled Talib

smokescreen khaled talib

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.

The Story

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.
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News from the Book World

French Thriller Writer Gérard de Villiers Dies

Gérard de Villiers

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.

Gérard de Villiers 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.

Gérard de Villiers Gérard de Villiers Continue reading

Opinion & Featured Articles / Reviews

Top 10 Spy Novels of All Time

vintage cover art

Are you a dedicated collector of espionage novels? If yes, check out the following list to make sure you haven’t missed the classics of the genre.

the spy who came in from the cold john le carreThe Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre (1963)

The Story of a British agent who is about to end his professional career, but is sent to one final assignment. While Ian Fleming pampers his hero with sultry seductresses, fast cars, and vodka martini, John Le Carre offers you believable characters and stories where spies act like spies.

From Russia with Love, Ian Fleming (1957)from russia with love ian fleming

Bond takes on Russia’s counter-intelligence agency SMERSH, who plots to kill the MI5 agent in the context of a carefully contrived scandal. The hugely successful 1963 film adaptation (starring Sean Connery) has turned this novel into a cult espionage book.

the secret agent joseph conradThe Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (1907)

Mr Verloc, a secret agent, gets involved in an anarchist conspiracy, but things go horribly wrong. The Secret Agent stands for everything that James Bond is not. Conrad makes a fine synthesis of politics, spying and moral anarchy to write an atypical spy classic that has multiple layers of meaning.

The 39 Steps by John Buchan (1915)the 39 steps john buchan

On the eve of WWI, Richard Hannay — a bored London guy — gets entangled in an intricate web of codes and homicide. Buchan piles improbability upon improbability and brings about nothing profound. Read simply because it’s a brilliant story, brilliantly told. Check out the classic Hitchcock film too.

dashiell hammett red harvestRed Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (1929)

More a hardboiled piece than a spy novel, Red Harvest tells the story of the Continental Op, who takes on an entire town to avenge the murder of an honest citizen. A gushing, violent masterpiece of crime fiction and the best Dashiell Hammett novel without question.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré (1974)tinker tailor soldier spy john le carre

George Smiley is assigned to identify and destroy a double agent in British Intelligence. A really tricky novel where office politics and international espionage are hardly distinguishable. It’s unlike anything you get to read in spy fiction. Watch the film version starring Gary Oldman.

the bourne identity robert ludlumBourne identity by Robert Ludlum (1980)

Jason Bourne wakes up to find that his memory is gone. Why someone wants him dead? What are his secrets? Who is he? A great dose of adventure, action, and conspiracy with some surprising twists. The film adaptation, though pretty good, differs from the book.

The Man Who was Thursday By G.K. Chesterton (1908)the man who was thursday gk chesterton

This classic spy story is about a detective who infiltrates a group of anarchists. The Man Who was Thursday is part mystery, part philosophy, and part fantasy. This is an allegorical tale, which needs multiple reading. Recommended for readers with a taste for thought-provoking books.

impossible virgin peter o donnellThe Impossible Virgin, Peter O’Donnell (1971)

Modesty and her lieutenant, Willie Garvin take on Brunel — the savage killer — in Central Africa and fight for the secret of the Impossible Virgin, a key to enormous wealth. Incorrect political attitudes, quirky characters, and lots of hand-to-hand combat make this action-adventure novel too much fun.

Guns of Navarone, Alistair MacLean (1963)the guns of navarone Alistair maclean

Five men sent to silence the Guns of Navarone. Can they do what an entire navy could not? A tense WWII thriller that was made into an equally good movie starring Gregory Peck. Detailed military strategies and plot twists will keep you guessing till the end.

What’s your favourite spy thriller? Continue reading