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Posts Tagged ‘Frederick Forsyth’

A Review of Avenger

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 19, 2015

AvengerAvenger by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book. It was a great read. I read over some reviews when I finished it and was gratified to see a lot of people agreed with me, but I found two one star reviews, both of which admitted this was the first time they’d read Forsyth. Their main complaint seemed to be all of the “history” that Forsyth wrote about and forced us to read before the action started. One of them said this was the “lamest” book ever. Um, insanity! Nuts! If you knew anything about the author, you’d know that he always spends the first halves of his books building up the back story before proceeding to the action. That’s his thing. It’s attention to detail and it’s masterful. It’s what draws a lot of people to him. This book does have a lot of “history” and planning and detail, but it’s all essential to the entire story and the story is good. In fact, it’s incredibly exciting. I couldn’t put the book down over the final 100 pages. I had to see what would happen.

It’s 1995, and a nice young man — college age — leaves North America to go to war torn Bosnia to help out aid services for the summer. Where he is brutally killed by a group of para-military Serbs, led by Serb butcher Zoran Zilic. The boy’s grandfather, in Canada, a very wealthy individual, hires a private detective to go look for him. He’s pretty good and he eventually finds out that Ricky is undoubtedly dead, but he couldn’t nail down the perpetrator. He had his suspicions and found one of the soldiers in Belgrade, who he couldn’t get to confess, but with whom he left his card in case he ever wanted to. Fast forward to 2001. This soldier had a conscious and decided to confess. This confession made its way to the detective and then to the Canadian millionaire. And he wanted his revenge.

Meanwhile, there’s attorney Cal Dexter. He’s a Vietnam vet, where he was a “Tunnel Rat,” an unsung hero of a man who went into heavily booby trapped Viet Cong tunnels to raid their quarters and to assassinate as many as possible. He was very good. Now he’s much older, but he trains for triathlons on a regular basis and is in fantastic shape. He practices in a small New Jersey town, but keeps an apartment in New York City where he can operate out of for his side business by which he goes by the name of Avenger. He’s a mercenary. I know it sounds a little bizarre and it is, but just go with it. The only means of communicating with the Avenger is by placing ads in a small airplane magazine and one day he sees an ad asking for him to contact someone with no price ceiling for their job. He does. It’s the grandfather.

Meanwhile, the grandfather had also talked to some politicians who had taken the case of Zoran Zilic up with the Feds, notably the FBI and CIA. One of the FBI higher ups was aghast at what Zilic had done and wanted to get him. He had a talk with CIA agent Paul Devereux and found out that Devereux seemed to know where Zilic had disappeared to after the Bosnian war was over, but he wouldn’t give him up. This really ticked the FBI guy off and they parted ways unamicably. Devereux knew exactly where Zilic was. He was working for him. For two years, Devereux had been working on a way to get to bin Laden and Zilic was going to be his way in, carrying nuclear materials to sell to bin Laden only to blow bin Laden away with a drone via GPS when he reached him. So where was Zilic? Living on a heavily guarded estate in a small central American country called San Marino. And the Avenger had to find him and snatch him.

Dexter did some digging, made some assumptions, thought some thoughts and came up with some information. He basically came up with San Marino. He went and hired a private plane to fly over, where he spotted the huge fortified estate and took tons of photos from the plane. But he was spotted. Add that to the fact that he placed a call that was deemed suspicious to some people, and some people were on the phone to Devereux telling him that someone was after Zilic. He couldn’t believe it. He was so close to getting bin Laden. He had to stop this person, find him and stop him asap. So he started looking for him, first by getting the details on the plane. He found the pilot had been killed, presumably by Zilac’s men. He kept searching. Meanwhile Dexter was looking at pictures. He was impressed. The mansion was surrounded by a huge wall that was patrolled by numerous armed guards. On three sides, it was surrounded by cliffs beside the ocean. It’s only entrance was up high on a road from a slave labor camp owned by Zilic where some 1200 Hispanic men toiled on a self sustaining farm, next to a private air field. All surrounded by numerous fences and gates. There were hungry dobermans patrolling at night. As he found out later, in the water by the mansion, there were tons of sharks. In the river providing water to the estate, there were piranha. There were also spikes in the river. There were about 100 armed guards. It was a fortress. How was one man going to get in there, grab Zilic, and get out?

Dexter made his preparations. He bought supplies, got fake passports, while Devereux found out about the Avenger and went after him. But Dexter was always one step ahead of him. He went down to San Marino and had a hard time getting in, crashed the gate, left with the authorities looking for him, and returned later with a different passport. He rented a car and then left it to go hiking off into the jungle toward the estate. Word got to the CIA that the Avenger had penetrated San Marino and Devereux couldn’t believe it. Dexter had faked his own death with his first attempt and it had bought him some time, so the San Marino army was ticked and started looking for him everywhere while Devereux sent his second in command there to take charge and take care of Zilic. He was worried Zilic would not go after bin Laden if he found out a mercenary was after him and the CIA couldn’t get him.

So does Dexter do it? Well, you know he must, right? But how? I’m not going to tell you. You’re going to have to read the book yourself. It’s pretty damn amazing though. Even with Zilic finally finding out about Dexter and the dogs being loosed and all of the guards being stationed everywhere, is it possible Dexter still finds a way? It’s completely crazy. When everything’s over, Dexter winds up back in the US and calls the man in Canada. But it’s the final page of the book that’s stunning and makes it worth the price of the book alone. I won’t spoil it for you. The reason why I’m not giving this book five stars and am giving it only four is because Forsyth leaves so many things to chance that Dexter gets right. It’s just not very realistic. How would he know the man he kidnaps would be working that day? How would he know the guards would go for those small bombs? How would he know they’d go for the airplane? That seems like the unlikeliest assumption to me. How did he know a lot of things? How did he know to always stay one step ahead of the CIA, especially when he didn’t even know the CIA was tracking him? It’s just not that realistic. But it makes for a fantastic story. If you can get past the realism aspect of it, it’s a fun ride. I definitely recommend this book.

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A Review of The Veteran

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 18, 2015

First of all, I want to mention that this is my 500th blog post here on WordPress. That’s a lot. Thanks to all of you who have been reading me all this time. I guess I’ll continue on. Next….



The VeteranThe Veteran by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Veteran is a book of five longish short stories by Forsyth, some of which are quite good, some of which are less so. Nearly all of them have somewhat surprising plot twists toward the end which give the reader a pretty good jolt.

The first story, “The Veteran,” is about the murder of an unidentified old man by two young thugs. The police search everywhere for his identity, but to no avail. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the best defense lawyer in London takes these thugs on and wins their case. Then … plot twist.

The second story, “The Art of the Matter,” is a delightful and heavily researched story on the art world and how a young art professional at an auction house gets royally screwed by a big wig there and his story of ultimate revenge. It’s pretty sweet.

The third story, “The Miracle,” is about an American tourist couple in Italy who happen upon an Italian of German origin in a town there who tells them a miraculous story, only to have, ta dah, a plot twist at the end. *** SPOILER ALERT *** I don’t view this story as plausible after thinking about it though. To think that this man and his accomplice could set up their scam in a specific courtyard out of the way in this town and just expect suckers, like these tourists, to happen along and listen to a lengthy tale, only to give up their cash, is beyond belief. Just not realistic.

The fourth story, “The Citizen,” is about drug running, with a mega plot twist at the end.

The final story, “Whispering Wind,” is the one everyone raves about. Everyone seems to love it. I hated it. I couldn’t stand it. It’s novella length and I just couldn’t finish the final 50 pages. I gave up. I was so bored. The story is about the life of the only white man to survive Custer’s last stand, and you would think, interesting premise, right, especially as written by an upper class Englishman. But Custer hardly appears in this story and it turns into a fantasy story, and I hardly view Forsyth as a master of fantasy. Stick to the spy/thriller genre, Mr. Forsyth. Please. I hated this story.

All of this said, it’s a pretty solid book and if you’re a fan, you must read it. If you’ve never read any of his work, this really isn’t representative of most of his work, but it’s not bad. Somewhat recommended.

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A Review of Icon

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 18, 2014

IconIcon by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book by Forsyth. It was epic in scale. And he pulled it off masterfully. The first half of the book is plot set up, which is typical of the author. He’s really into details and logistics, so this part of his books often bores some readers. But not me. I like finding out about all of the details that go into an operation. The second half of the book was action packed and I had a hard time putting the book down.

The plot revolves around post-Soviet Russia circa 1999. It’s falling apart, is broke, its leadership in shambles. Up steps a charismatic leader named Igor Komarov, who’s expected to become president in the upcoming election and who vows to return Mother Russia to its glory. However, he’s not what he seems to be. He’s a Hitler wannabe who is going to practice genocide on Jews, ethnic minorities, the military leadership, etc. And he’s got all of his plans written down in a “Black Manifesto,” of which there are three copies. One of them is foolishly left on his secretary’s desk and an old ex-soldier who now cleans Komarov’s headquarters sees it, reads some of it, realizes its importance and steals it. He then gets it to the British embassy, where it works its was back to British intelligence. The document is shared between British and American governments, but they choose to do nothing, so a group of highly influential and secretive world leaders meet to discuss the situation and come up with a solution — to send in a spy to destabilize Komarov’s platform and discredit him, thereby ensuring he loses the election. The person chosen to do this is ex-CIA agent Jason Monk. Monk fights it, but Sir Nigel Irvine (a great character!) convinces him to do it, and so he goes in.

When Monk arrives in Moscow, he immediately calls in a favor of a particular Chechen who is head of the Chechen underworld and he gains their support and protection. He then starts making the rounds, contacting the military’s leadership, the state police’s leader, the head of the Russian Orthadox church, and a major bank president who also presides over the television media. These people, after being confronted with the facts of the Black Manifesto, turn on Komarov and his security chief, Colonel Grishin. Meanwhile, Grishin finds out Monk is in the country and has an old score to settle with him, so he puts his Black Guard troops at work trying to locate him. Monk moves around, and this is a weakness of the book I think, and is almost omniscient in anticipating their moves and making adjustments for himself and his Russian collaborators. Sir Nigel makes it to Russia to meet with the clergy and comes up with the idea of returning Russia to a czar-based country, which is accepted by said clergy. He then comes up with a distant heir to the throne and promotes his return to Russia to take over.

When Komarov and Grishin realize their time is almost up, they do something completely crazy — attempt a New Year’s Eve coup in Moscow. But Monk anticipates this and helps prepare the military the the police, so the coup attempt fails and everything works out beautifully. The climactic scene between Grishin and Monk is largely anticlimactic, though, and that was disappointing.

It’s not Forsyth’s best book, but it’s an entertaining one, with a lot of research having gone into Russia, their crime scene, politics, etc., and it’s certainly worth reading. Monk is a bit too super human to be very believable, but he’s a likeable character, so one can overlook that. Recommended.

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A Review of The Dogs of War

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 22, 2014

The Dogs of WarThe Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Dogs of War is another excellent Forsyth book that is well plotted and heavily detailed with some limited action at the end. It’s almost an injustice to call it a thriller, but a thriller it is. Just a slow paced one.

It’s about Zangara, a small republic in West Africa, where a mountain is discovered that is thought to have tin in it. However, it’s discovered to be platinum and about 10 billion dollars’ worth. The mining company that has done this survey, located in London, is eager to gain mineral rights to the mountain, but the dictator of the country is cozy with Russia and the concern is once it’s made known what’s in the mountain, Russia will get first dibs. So, the owner of this company dreams up this elaborate scheme to hire mercenaries to overthrow this African nation’s government and install a puppet regime which will give him mineral rights to the mountain containing the platinum.

Enter Cat Shannon, mercenary. He’s one of the best, if not the best around. He and his gang are looking for work when he’s approached with this offer and so begins a lengthy round of planning and logistics that would bore the hell out of many readers (including my wife), but really gives one the feel of what it takes to purchase, transport, and store black market arms, as well as other goods. Shannon has 100 days to execute his plan. He buys a ship, hires a few more men, trains, and on Day 100 storms the beach, ready to take on the dictator’s men. I’m not going to give away the ending of the book, but suffice it to say that there is such an unexpected plot twist that I pushed my rating up from four to five stars based solely on that alone. Simply brilliant.

This isn’t Forsyth’s best book, but it’s really pretty good. I understand they made a movie of it and now I shall have to seek it out and watch it. If you’re easily bored by books that aren’t fast paced 100% of the time (or even 50%), this isn’t the book for you, but if you like good political and military thrillers with depth, I’d give this a try. Recommended.

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A Review of The Cobra

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 9, 2014

The CobraThe Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Cobra was a bit of a disappointment for me, especially since I love Forsyth and most of his works. The premise is pretty simple. The president, who is clearly meant to be Obama, decides to take on the cocaine cartels and wants them wiped out. To do this, he turns to an ex-CIA man code named “The Cobra,” who assures him that with appropriate time and resources, he can do it. He then recruits an ex-soldier named Cal Dexter to be his second in command. And thus begin my complaints with the book.

After this initial introduction to The Cobra, we almost never see him again until the very end of the book. How odd is that? Instead, Dexter is everywhere — all over the world — coordinating the logistics for putting together cocaine hunter/killer special ops groups who are going to take on the cartels by air and sea. Additionally, friendly governments are recruited to help, the British by sending their special forces, others by ramping up security. And halfway through the book, after tons of planning, the operation begins. And goes on and on. And the good guys — who are real god — and the bad guys — who are real bad — go at it, with the good guys winning virtually 100% of the time, so incredibly easily that you have to wonder if the government actually followed this novel as a planning guide, could it eradicate the drug trade? Forsyth makes it look so damn easy. And that’s not remotely realistic.

There’s a twist at the end that brings The Cobra back into the story and also involves Dexter. By now, the cartels have figured out what’s going on to a certain degree, but seem powerless to stop it. Amazing. What happens at the very end was a bit of a surprise to me, and a welcome one, actually, but it couldn’t save the book. Why name the book “The Cobra” when it actually should have been named “Cal Dexter?” It doesn’t make sense. Why write a book that makes winning the war on drugs — which America has stunningly lost to a shocking degree — look so incredibly easy when we know it’s not? It’s not remotely realistic. Some people complain of boredom due to the incredible detail and planning that went on during the first half of the book. Well, that’s basically Forsyth’s way, so I personally don’t have a problem with that. But it’s got to lead somewhere. And this led nowhere. Another complaint — there’s no sense of suspense or real danger to the good guys in this book. You get that in the Odessa File, the Jackal, the Fourth Protocol, etc., but not here. It’s just non-stop intercepting and destroying drug shipments left and right. The only danger is to the bad guys. Not much of a thriller.

Normally I highly recommend Forsyth books, but I’m afraid this time I can’t. I’m not even sure why I’m giving it three stars instead of two. I guess out of respect for the author. Not recommended.

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A Review of The Odessa File

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 26, 2014

The Odessa FileThe Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book by Frederick Forsyth, following on the heels on the Day of the Jackal, which I also really enjoyed. I’ve waited several days to write anything about it because for some reason I don’t feel like I have anything of value to say about it. For some reason, words escape me. But I guess I’ll mention a few things. The book is about a German journalist named Peter Miller who, on the day of JFK’s death, discovers the suicide of a Jewish death camp survivor. He doesn’t think much of it until his detective friend gives him the man’s diary to read and he finds it both compelling and horrifying. The man had been at Riga, in Latvia, one of just a few hundred survivors out of over 80,000 Jews who were killed there. The camp commander was one Captain Eduard Roschmann, aka the Butcher of Riga. He was a horrible murderer. The concentration camp survivor had stayed alive long enough to see this man brought to justice, but when it became apparent 20 years later that he wouldn’t, he killed himself.

Miller made it his mission to find Roschmann. He found the old man’s friend, who confirmed he saw Roschmann leaving the opera just a few weeks previously. Miller started making inquiries and was warned off. He finds out about a secret organization called Odessa comprised of ex-SS men that exists to shepard endangered SS men to safety, to give them new identities, to defend them in court, etc, etc. Miller is contacted by the Mossad, although he doesn’t realize it’s them. They want him to infiltrate Odessa, though they warn him it’ll be very dangerous. They’d already had two men killed who’d tried to do this. He wants to do it though, so they set him up as a fake ex SS man with documents and a fake story that he’s trained on and he’s interviewed and sent to get new ID papers. He does all of this so he can get to Roschmann, who is still alive and living as someone else, rich, and in charge of a factory with scientists helping Egypt discover the means to send rockets to destroy Israel, a side story to the real story. The ending of the book is pretty climactic, although I’m knocking it down from five to four stars because the stated motivation for Miller’s obsessive search for Roschmann hangs on just too much blind luck, in my opinion, and just wasn’t very believable. This book allegedly merges fact with fiction, which makes it all the more fascinating, but this was one instance in which it had to be fiction.

The book had a pretty good pace to it. You got a good feel for Miller and got to know his girlfriend too. You didn’t really get a good look at the other characters, but that’s alright. It’s an exciting book to read with an interesting premise and even though it’s a little dated, it didn’t feel too dated. By the way, they made a movie of the book several years ago and I watched it yesterday. It’s pretty good too. It stars Jon Voight. If you’re interested, you might want to check it out. Recommended.

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