I’ve just finished reading The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth, not because I’m a fast reader – it was released in the UK yesterday – but because it was already on sale in Dubai last week. And seeing only a couple of copies left on the shelf, I decided to go for it.
The blurb suggested this clean, crisp plot: The Preacher (terrorist) versus the Tracker (US manhunter). However, I’ve been a bit disappointed. It’s reasonably fast-paced, with quite a lot of detail (military procedure, slang and hardware, international inter-agency cooperation and non-cooperation, secret service protocol) and some twists and turns here and there in the plot. Still, I felt the novel didn’t quite deliver. I’m not saying it’s not worth reading, but it is not at the same standard as The Day of the Jackal, The Fourth Protocol (my Forsyth favourite), or The Devil’s Alternative.
Having a computer genius with Aspergers is not a new angle in 2013, but there were a few great phrases here and there adding a bit of spice – my favourite one being “with the imagination of a chapati”. And it annoys me when the research for local detail has been shoddy – the only “cheap local airline” flying direct between Doha and Dubai International is FlyDubai, and their passengers definitely don’t see “a truly vast duty-free shopping mall” on arrival. The Duty Free at Dubai Terminal 2 is definitely on the small side (as all FlyDubai passengers know very well).
That said, I think The Kill List compares favourably with The Cobra, The Afghan and Icon.
John LeCarre’s A Delicate Truth is pure delight. I haven’t enjoyed a novel of his this much since The Little Drummer Girl, my LeCarre favourite. Though, mind you, all LeCarre’s novels are either very good or excellent.
The subtlety of the characters and the multi-layered plot make this a great read. LeCarre is a master at combining the spy world with interesting psychological portraits of people. I also enjoy the social and political comment. Normally, I don’t go for the whistle-blower theme, but this novel is just so satisfying, from the very beginning to the last page.
Jag blev rekommenderad att läsa Fasanjägarna av Jussi Adler-Olsen när jag var i Stockholm i sommar. Jag tog med mig den på min resa med Transsibiriska järnvägen men undrar nu i efterhand varför i all världen jag läste den till slutet när jag också hade Dostojevskis Demonerna i resväskan.
Fasanjägarna hade en hyfsad början men sen tyckte jag att resten av boken gav ett fragmenterat intryck, där vissa teman gick runt i cirklar i all oändlighet. Romanen hade också nåt overkligt över sig, vilket jag inte gillar i en kriminalroman.
Orsaken till att jag inte gav upp var att jag ville veta hur det hela slutade. Jag läste färdigt boken någonstans mellan Bajkalsjön och Ulan Bator och lämnade den på ett vandrarhem i Mongoliet.
Demonerna hade varit ett mycket bättre val för resan på Transsibiriska järnvägen.
I haven’t read a book by Jeffrey Archer since I read Kane and Abel and the Prodigal Daughter back in the 80s. However, I was slightly intrigued by a comment Jeffery Archer made at a talk he gave at the Dubai Festival of Literature in March this year. He said, “I’m not a writer. I’m a storyteller.” So I bought a copy of Only Tome Will Tell.
It is true that I complain about the lack of characterisation when a novel is only plot. But it’s equally true that I get bored if it’s only characterisation and the plot moves forward millimetre by millimetre, and could easily be overtaken by a snail. So I guess I’m looking for a balance between the two, in addition to some kind of elusive thing called “good writing”.
That said, Only Time Will Tell is plot only. And the plot is too neat and polished for my taste. Also, the authorial presence is quite “preachy” for lack of a better term. But I read the whole novel from beginning to end because I wanted to know what would happen next.
That’s the power of plot. With a plot in ultra slow motion and no “good writing”, I just forget about the novel somewhere before page 100. I won’t read the rest of the Clifton Chronicles Trilogy, though.