The Spycatcher – Matthew Dunn

Setting: New York, Paris, Baltimore, Zagreb, Berlin. (I may have missed one or two stops on the journey.)

Story: An Iranian terrorist mastermind is planning a 9/11 type event against the West. What’s the target? How? When? It’s up to MI6’s deniable asset, Spartan the deadly spy hunter, to find the mastermind and thwart his plans.

The Good Stuff: The plot has more twists and turns than an Alpine road, and you will not be short of action. Then there’s the action. And then more action. And some more action. Break for love interest. Back to the action. The action is good, in the sense that something happens. But that’s as far as I’ll go. (See below.) There’s a fair bit of jet setting from dangerous location to dangerous location. And there are a couple of interesting morale dilemmas slipped in to the story. And a final twist, just to show the author was trying all the way up to the end.

The Not So Good Stuff: The author was “trained by SIS” and worked “with highly specialised units from the SAS and SBS, as well as conducting joint operations with MI5, GCHQ and the CIA”. This spiel from the author profile in the book is meant to give the impression of a man who was at the sharp end. I doubt it. I found the action unconvincing; dry, detached, and free of emotion. The Spartan fellow, Will Cochrane, is like a British Superman. He makes James Bond look like an ineffective weakling. And where there is the possibility of some real craft, characterization, and complexity – as when our killing machine hero recognizes someone he has killed – it’s glossed over. The whole thing is balderdash, and has the temerity to take itself way too seriously.

Score: 5/10