Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words
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Regis Sheehan is a career Special Agent with the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State.
A massive truck bomb destroys part of a US facility in Saudi Arabia, killing a number of personnel. After years of ineffective responses to terrorist threats, the Government turns to a secret group called The Org.
I’m not sure what to make of The Supplicant. It’s written reasonably well, the characters are okay as is the dialogue but overall it left me feeling largely flat and uninterested. I struggled to get into the story, which dived around in both time and place. I couldn’t associate myself with the characters and I wasn’t really bothered with what happened to them.
One element that perhaps put me off was the heavy use of military acronyms. Sure this is not uncommon – CIA, KGB etc. However I counted how many separate acronyms were used – 100. And that was excluding those such as CNN or BBC (including these the total would be 117). And I don’t mean once, some were used many times. It seemed that every conceivable terrorist group, military team or weapon was included. It meant the author had to explain what each meant and who they were. For example:
In security terminology, their conveyance would be called a VBIED, a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device. In simpler terms: a truck bomb.
So why not just call it a truck bomb? Later in the book we have to go through a similar explanation all over again, sigh. In some paragraphs, there were three or even four acronyms, often obscure ones.
”We also need to train you on an alternative means of commo, using what is basically a digital dead drop. Stego.”
See what I mean? For me all of this took the pace out of the plot. Along with the regular use of local language which was then translated into English. Acceptable in small amounts, yes, but I got fed up with this too in conjunction with the acronyms.
As mentioned above the writing was okay but needs some tightening up, at times words were repeated (editing sorts this out) and it was clunky. For example:
The Org had a small staff of people backstopped the Risk Consultancies cover, as well as several others, for uses such as this.
There was also the element of time and place. One of the characters, Chalice, is followed through various episodes in his life that are supposed to add to his complexity I suppose. However again I found it jarring in the way it was done.
This over-explanation also extended to the characters. A minor player, Sherry-Lynn, acts as an intermediary in a bar. She literally has one thing to do, yet we’re treated to several pages on her background and motivation. Then, job done, she disappears out of the book forever. So why discuss her so much? Again, it’s just a distraction from the plot.
The ending was also somewhat of an anti-climax. For all the build-up it was a total let down. I expect the author meant to illustrate that in life not all goes to plan, but this is a thriller. Okay it doesn’t have to have a happy ending but it made me question the whole point of the story.
How would you feel if Private Ryan wasn’t quite saved?
Some adult language.
A small number of spelling and format issues.
Rating: ** Two Stars