The Kill List – Frederick Forsyth

Something happened to me after I read Frederick Forsyth‘s The Day of the Jackal, then The Odessa File: I stopped reading Frederick Forsyth books.

It’s difficult to explain. I enjoyed both of these, enormously. Ordinarily, I would have looked out for more by the author of such great reads and kept going. But with Mr Forsyth, I stopped.

I don’t know the reason. Perhaps I sensed that everybody has one book in them, but Frederick Forsyth had two in him – and I had read them. (So, everything else would be lower in quality.) Perhaps I had burned myself out on thrillers at the time, and needed to get back to crime or science fiction. Perhaps I was beginning to recognize a pattern, a formula, and I didn’t want to repeat the experience. Whatever the reason, I stopped reading his books. And was never tempted to try any out until a recommendation from my brother-in-law, Martin. This was unusual for all sorts of reasons, but suffice it to say that in less time than it takes to say the ten times table, I had acquired a copy of The Kill List for my tablet. Now I have read it.

On the plus side, Martin’s recommendation was spot on. This is a cracking story with a real buzz. Whatever pedestrian moments it has are few and far between, and easily compensated for by the staggering amount of hard data and research that Mr Forsyth has at hand and has deployed here. I did spot one error – the incorrect definition of IP. But, that apart, there’s a mountain of material that gives the impression of being real. So, as the reader, you are drawn into a world of Jihad, terrorism, and clashes of cultures.

Also on the plus side, that research makes the plot all the more credible. It has it twists and it works to build up the tension nicely. As usual, there is some suspension of disbelief, but not too much.

The list of the title is, allegedly, one that the USA’s highest office updates on a weekly basis with the names of those enemies for whom death has been decided as the only approach. When individuals start committing solitary, loose cannon, acts of terror after being radicalized by an anonymous online preacher, that preacher goes on the list. The USA sends out a top guy – the Tracker – to hunt down and kill the Preacher.

The Tracker is a bit of a comic super hero. You know the type: strong, smart, quick, speaks several languiages, and can leap tall buildings at a single bound. However, in fairness, the author does spend some time building up his back story. It’s history rather than character, in the main, but it does a reasonable job.

We get something similar about the Preacher, but disclosed in a different, enticing manner. That part – being relatively fresh – came across better.

The hunt is where the author excels. The detail of the IT cat and mouse game, then the involvement of the drones, and the military options, and the politics, and the fieldcraft, and the terrorist and pirate methodologies and tactics, are all well detailed and believable. That all works.

So, in short, a rattling good adventure.

The down side? It’s very much a tell, tell, tell, style of writing. There are no blanks, no analysis for the reader to do. Instead, it is all served up. You know everything. And that, on reflection may be why I can only take such books in small doses. That may be why I stopped reading his work. I am not sorry I read this because, on its own, I enjoyed it immensely. But I won’t be rushing to devour his back catalog yet.

Good fun. Entertaining. Well worth reading.