Crisis by Frank Gardner

Crisis by Frank Gardner
Publisher: Bantam Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Introducing Luke Carlton – ex-Special Boat Service commando, and now under contract to MI6 for some of its most dangerous missions.

Sent into the steaming Colombian jungle to investigate the murder of a British intelligence officer, Luke finds himself caught up in the coils of a plot that has terrifying international dimensions. Hunted down, captured, tortured and on the run from one of South America’s most powerful and ruthless drugs cartels and its psychotic leader thirsting for revenge, Luke is in a life-or-death race against time to prevent a disaster on a truly terrifying scale: London is the target, the weapon is diabolical and the means of delivery is ingenious.

Drawing on his years of experience reporting on security matters, CRISIS is Frank Gardner’s debut novel. Combining insider knowledge, up-to-the-minute hardware, fly on the wall insights with heart-in-mouth excitement, CRISIS boasts an irresistible, visceral frisson of authenticity: smart, fast-paced and furiously entertaining, here is a thriller for the 21st century.

After many years as an SBS commando, Luke Carlton needed a change of pace and a short-term contract with SIS seemed like the perfect fit. With impeccable Spanish from a large part of his childhood spent in South America and a razor-sharp mind, Luke is happy to see where this leads him. Only his first big mission is to uncover why a station-leader in Columbia has been murdered. Luke figures with his personal knowledge, some good connections and his military training there shouldn’t be a problem, only Luke didn’t realize just how powerful and ruthless his enemies are – or how far they’re willing to go to achieve their objective.

This is the first of currently three books about Luke Carlton and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. The writing style has a very solid British spy/espionage feel to it and more than a few times throughout the full-length novel I was reminded of a Bond sort of storyline or feel to the atmosphere. At the same time, though, there was a strong touch of the current world circumstances and a very modern feel to it all. This is not a cheesy style of story, but just a very British type of espionage thriller. Readers who want a high level of realism and a modern story should find this really suits their tastes.

There was a lot of realism to the international aspect of the plot too. I didn’t find many of the characters to be overdrawn or caricature-like, which in itself was refreshing. I also enjoyed the fact that Luke’s personal history was where a lot of his talents lay – having spent much of his childhood in South America it made sense he knew the local scenes, customs and languages very well. With his extended stint in the military, it made sense he could handle himself in a rough situation and had plenty of organizational skills and a sharp mind. I really enjoyed the fact the author had covered a lot of these bases and didn’t just write a movie-like action thriller that had huge holes in it.

Readers looking for a tightly woven plot should also find this book very appealing. While there is plenty of action, much of the first section of the book is laying the groundwork – introducing Luke, showing his current situation as a newbie in the SIS office and showing how all the puzzle pieces are arranged. While I did not find this a slow start to the story, neither was it a ramped-up, heavily action orientated type of beginning that a lot of thrillers are expected to have nowadays. I would strongly suggest sticking with the book if you find the beginning a little slow – the action definitely intensifies as the story progresses and I found this a real page-turning thriller the further I went.

With excellent characters, a modern and realistic outlook to our current world and solid plotting and pacing, I thought this was an exceptional spy/thriller style of story and I am eager to read the author’s next offering.

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