The Burgas Affair, Ellis Shuman

The Burgas Affair, Ellis Shuman

The Burgas Affair

Boyko Stanchev, previously of the Burgas Police Department and now an agent with the State Agency for National Security, is drinking too much, smoking too much, and on the verge of running what’s left of his career into the ground. When an attack blows up a tourist bus full of Israeli tourists outside Burgas airport, he’s forced to confront his past, his choices, and not least, the female Israeli agent assigned as his investigative partner.

The Burgas Affair offers a fascinating close-up of Balkan and Israeli politics, and the setting, largely in Bulgaria, was vividly evoked. From my perspective, the settings and the backdrop to the story were the strongest facets of the read, although the character of Stanchev is skillfully written and dislikeable to a degree that merits applause. The underlying plot structure of the book is well-constructed and full of surprises. I did feel that the relative level of emphasis given to the romance detracted from the level of attention that the mystery itself deserved; tying all the stray elements of the attack and its circumstances together into a convincing storyline struck me as the more interesting part of the book. Certainly an enjoyable read for any readers of political thrillers.

The Veritas Deception, Lynne Constantine

The Veritas Deception, Lynne Constantine

The Veritas Deception

Set neatly at the crux between political thriller and religious fantasy, The Veritas Deception opens when a US senator arrives at the door of Jack Logan, journalist, claiming that he’s about to be assassinated. Jack, a character who has clearly lived in interesting times, is skeptical, but sends out feelers to keep track of that particular politician—just in case. When the man turns up dead less than a week later, Jack realises that he may be the only one who can unravel the events leading to the senator’s death, and almost certainly the only person able to keep the senator’s widow, Jack’s childhood girlfriend, from falling prey to the same fate. However, even Jack doesn’t realise how far down the rabbit hole this mystery may require him to go…

The book is well-written, with a complex, twisty plot. Events from the Nazi era combined with Christian mythology have far-reaching effects in modern-day US politics, resulting in a web of crooked politicians, corporations on the take, and assassinations, with each new page unveiling new connections. Jack Logan, the protagonist, is a strong anti-hero type, with the kind of background that can best be described as chequered. I, personally, found that the insistence that divorce and the pro-choice movements were instigated by Nazis escapees to bring down humanity was enough to turn me off towards the end of the book, but nonetheless Lynne Constantine’s story-telling ability and technical skill definitely earnt this book its four stars. Fast-paced and cohesive, this book will appeal to fans of Indiana Jones and classic thrillers.

The Eyes of Others, Mikael Carlson

The Eyes of Others, Mikael Carlson

The Eyes of Others

Mikael Carlson’s The Eyes of Others is the story of a mole within the walls of the Washington intelligence agencies, haemorrhaging sensitive information to enemies of the United States that has resulted in a number of American deaths. If you had a mental still at that description of a grim-faced Liam Neeson looking at you down the barrel of a handgun with a massive explosion silhouetting the White House in the background, we’re probably on the same page.

In many ways, this is a familiar plot outline, subject of countless movies and thrillers. This book takes the unusual approach of relating its story from multiple first-person viewpoints, clueing the reader in by naming which of the protagonists or secondary characters is telling this particular segment via chapter headings. While I, personally, found it confusing and frequently irritating when I had to scroll back up to the top of the chapter to figure out which war hero or intrepid law enforcement officer I was reading in that piece, the novel structure does tie back appealingly to the book title. However, for me the sheer number of the secondary characters through which I had to head hop (in first person) made the read somewhat disjointed. In terms of characterisation, by far the strongest character is a secondary called “Louisiana”, who tends to grab the spotlight by the short and curlies whenever he shows up, effectively distracting you from any other character you might be reading about, but he stands out from all the macho alphabet agency types and decorated ex-military heroes simply by virtue of not being like anyone else in the book.

Overall, the plot was a solid, fairly well-written high-octane thriller read, with plenty of explosions, a nice offering of car chases, and a few shoot-outs. Readers who like to figure out the bad guy on their own will note there isn’t much by way of bread crumbs leading you to final villain, but it does make for a very nice plot twist come the final few chapters when you hit the grand reveal. While this book certainly merited its three stars, I didn’t find it quite had that extraordinary combination of truly appealing characters, original plotting and sheer flair that singles out a five-star and makes me read and re-read a book until the covers fall off.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books blog.

Trumpocalypse Now, Alfy Dade

Trumpocalypse Now, Alfy Dade

Trumpocalypse Now

Set in a future where the orange troll has brought about the apocalypse, I had to give Trumpocalypse Now at least a few stars for entertainment value, even though I’m generally not a fan of political satire.

The novella starts in a deceptively genuine dystopian setting, with our hero scavenging for medical supplies, but after the first section, the story becomes increasingly satirical, and the segue into the fairy story of how the troll caused the apocalypse is a blatant, entertaining parallel to the current US election.

The language of Trumpocalypse Now is full of nods to the genre, with references such as ‘like pancake orange makeup it disguised a most disgusting sight’, and the ‘Secret Service’ episode ends up describing every act of the troll and Brandon screwing Ligeia in political terms. The cameo description of Aglaopë as Hillary at the end was a particularly nice touch.

However, the structure of the book was more focussed on scoring the satirical points than on readability, with the result that while it gave me several grins, I wasn’t really captured by it. I also found that the editorial side could have used some more attention, with occasional misspellings and punctuation oddities detracting from the read.

Trumpocalypse Now cover

Meet the author:


Author website

Storm on the Horizon, Michael Scheffel

Storm on the Horizon, Michael Scheffel

Storm on the Horizon

Michael Scheffel’s Storm on the Horizon offers a behind the scenes view of world politics spiralling out of control, as the first rumblings of something amiss begin to percolate through the anonymous hands of the intelligence services. From Gibraltar to Afghanistan to Plymouth, the limited forces gather, supported by cruise ships and fishing fleets, to face a threat reported through a man whom no one trusts, by an agent who can’t be named, to politicians unwilling to risk their careers on action. The new world order of peace and negotiation is a status quo that a China-backed Argentina is relying heavily on in a new attempt to capture the Falklands out from under the British. The question is whether a handful of men approaching their pensions can manage to sway political opinion in London in time to avert a disaster … and if Britain’s pared-down, scattered forces can respond in time if they do.

Storm on the Horizon is an intensely detailed view of the realities of the military and intelligence services through the back door of military supply, undercover agents, and fighters on the front lines of combat, contrasted with news report views massaged into a socially digestible summary. Michael Scheffel’s story-telling gathers disparate threads to provide a multi-faceted view of his subject matter, through the eyes of widely divergent characters. There is a very real sense of frustration and desperation evoked throughout, which adds to the realism of the book. Fans of the genre will revel in the carefully-researched capabilities of the forces involved, as well as the practicalities of the tactics and action-packed engagements.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite.

Pin It on Pinterest