Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words
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Alex Shaw was a drama teacher in an international school based in Kyiv until he left to set up his own consultancy business.
Hetman, the author’s first novel, took 12 years to write, subsequently followed up by Cold Black. Both were Kindle bestsellers.
You can learn more about the author at his website.
Ex-SAS paratrooper witnesses a car crash, but the passenger happens to be a kidnapped Saudi princess. Paddy saves the girl and is offered a job in Dubai by her father, a fortunate happenstance. It happens that an Al Qaeda splinter cell is causing havoc there and Fox finds himself a kidnap victim.
Aidan Snow now works for MI6 and is sent into the Middle East to rescue Paddy and avert disaster.
This is a pacy, well written and exciting thriller with a strong international theme – and a post Cold War slant. The locations include the UK, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Broadly Aidan Snow, an MI6 operative, is attempting to stop Russia destabilising Saudi Arabia and it's oil flow in order to capitalise itself. The author in his bio states a knowledge of the Ukraine, and this Eastern bloc (knowledge) shines through. It adds a real slant of realism and authenticity.
A second strength is the characters, in particular action men Snow and Fox as well as the head of the SBU in the Ukraine, Dudka. I really like him. Dudka appears in a previously reviewed novella, Kyiv Rules. He's a wily old fox, hates the politics that's developed within his country and his family have moved away – so Dudka has nothing to lose.
This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy international thrillers with a strong armed forces theme. There are plenty of references and acronyms, but not too many to be off putting, a good balance is struck.
The story itself is an ambitious one, with several strands in different locations running in parallel until drawn together in the conclusion. There's plenty of opportunity for the novel to lose itself, but the author manages to pull it off admirably. It's not all action, there's a seam of army based humour running through it too.
All in all a well written, engaging read.
Nothing of note.
A few typos.
Rating: **** Four Stars