Good Reading : September 2007
word of mouth adventure / thriller Crusade Robyn Young The Holy land in 1274 is churning with unrest. The Crusades are a dim memory and Christian merchants are worried they will be bankrupted due to falling profits (war is good for business!) while the Mamluks, cur rently at peace with the Christians, are beset by threats from the Mongol empire. A secret cabal of merchants, conniving with the Templar Grand Master, plot to incense the Mamluks to break their treaty and attack the last few Christian outposts, hoping the Pope and European monarchs will call a crusade and come to their aid. Will Campbell, now a fully-fledged Templar Knight, also a member of the Anima Templi (an ultra-secret group within the Templars who are dedicated to peace), finds himself at the forefront of events, becoming the Grand Master’s right-hand man and reluctantly involved in the plot. The conflicts between his Templar vows, dedication to Anima Templi and forbidden love for his sweetheart, Elwen, tear him apart as he attempts to stop the inevitable tide of war which culminates in the hor rific siege of Acre, dooming all he loves. A good follow-up to Brethren, Crusade builds greater character depth and, while the historical denouement is inevitable, the twists and tur ns along the way are both gripping and entertaining. ★★★ Hodder & Stoughton $32.95 Reviewed by Leslie Lightfoot Christopher’s Ghosts Charles McCarry As a history of the evil of the twentieth century, dealing with the twin monsters of Nazism and East Ger man communism, Charles McCar ry’s latest spy thriller is second to none. The book is divided into two parts – the first set in the chaos of Nazi Germany in 1939, when the hero Paul Christopher is 16 years old, and the second part in 1959 when Paul is a top agent, determined to seek revenge on those who made his early life a misery. In the earlier part of the novel, set in Hitler’s Berlin, Paul’s family is plagued by the evil attentions of SS Obergrup- penfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, who has fallen for Paul’s mother Lori, a baroness from a noble Prussian family. Paul’s adolescent love for Rima, of Jewish extraction, is dashed when she is taken to a con- centration camp. But revenge omes twenty years later when Paul, working with Israeli Nazi hunters, seeks out the for mer SS officers responsible for his family’s misery, now protected by the East German Stasi secret police. Superbly plotted and replete with detailed and fascinating history, McCarry’s novel opens up the long-closed vaults of old Europe and exposes all the festering cor ruption they contained. ★★★★★ Scribe $32.95 Reviewed by Alan Gold The Last Assassin Barry Eisler Since he stopped being a spook employed by the CIA, novelist Barry Eisler has created an entire brand identity in the central character of his novels, the half-Japanese, half- American gentle assassin John Rain. In The Last Assassin, the latest of the series, Eisler excels in a superbly readable, fast-paced, edgy thriller with all the usual ingredients fans have come to love, but with an infor med style which puts his works above and beyond his run-of-the-mill competi- tors. Eisler is often compared to greats such as Ian Fleming, John le Carré and even Graham Greene, but such comparisons are inappropriate, because Eisler has carved out his own niche. In this, John Rain – the contract killer with a conscience – finds out that his ex-mistress, Midori, has had his baby and is raising her in the United States. Hoping for a reconciliation, Rain tracks her down – but this is precisely what his enemies are hoping for, and the Last Assassin’s sudden appearance puts everybody in danger. Exotic locations, erotic people, guns, fast cars … all the usual elements are employed here, but the style and pace, and even the literary accomplish- ment, make Eisler’s latest John Rain thriller one of the best he’s written. ★★★★ Penguin $29.95 Reviewed by Alan Gold The Machiavelli Covenant Alan Folsom John Bar ron, hero of Folsom’s 2004 novel The Exile, is back – going now by his nom de plume of Nicholas Marten. It’s one of the ways he stays under the radar and avoids discovery and death by the group of rogue LAPD cops who are still looking for him. Nicholas comes back out of exile to America for a deathbed vigil at the side of his child- hood sweetheart, who believes that she has been intentionally poisoned to cover up a shadowy conspiracy which has also murdered her Congressman husband. After her death Nicholas pursues a series of clues which lead to his retur n to Europe to bring to bay a chill- ng killer and expose a secret abal of politicians, industrialists and financiers who live by the dictates of Niccolo Machiavelli and are seeking to wipe out the Muslim population of the Middle East. Unlikely as it seems, he joins forces with the President of the United States, who is on the run from this same cabal, and together they race against time to gather proof and expose the plot, while evading the combined US and Spanish security forces – their only alternative is death! An action-packed conspiracy thriller; great for whiling away a few hours. ★★★ Pan Macmillan $32.95 Reviewed by Brooke Walker Win This month ten lucky readers could each win one of 10 copies of Under the Volcano by Cameron Forbes valued at $32.95 In his book, Forbes looks at the blood and beauty of Bali, telling the stories of explorers, surfers, artists, jihadists, drug-runners, and of the Balinese people, bringing the island into vibrant, disturbing focus. To enter tell us what island Under the Volcano is about. Simply write your answer, and your name and contact details, on the back of an envelope and mail to ‘Under the Volcano Competition’, GPO Box 3835 Sydney NSW 2001 or enter online at www.goodread- ingmagazine.co m For terms and conditions see page 13.