Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review.
Japan in the early 1950’s, Nicholai Hel is released from prison by the CIA to carry out a mission behind the bamboo curtain that is tailor made for a man of his unique talents. The mission will make Hel a pawn in a deadly game played between superpowers that will take him from the streets of Beijing to the jungles of French Indo-China leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
Don Winslow revisits the central character of Trevanian’s 1970’s blockbuster Shibumi, filling in the back story of how he became a formidable assassin, re-working a well known character or story can be a recipe for disappointment, but not in this case; Winslow’s book is a page turning thrill ride that can be enjoyed equally well by readers who, like the current reviewer, aren’t familiar with the original novels.
The cold war setting is meticulously recreated without bashing the reader over the head with how much research has gone into getting the paranoid atmosphere of Mao’s China or the shadowy machinations of Washington spy masters just right. Nicholai Hel is a brilliantly conceived character, a man of sensitivity in a brutal business, caught between the contrasting cultures of the east and west.
The action is relentless with no shortage of narrow escapes for Hel as he battles small time crooks in Saigon and superpowers jockeying for position within South Asia trying all the while to keep alive and one step ahead of his opponents. This is an accomplished and intelligent novel that treats its setting and subject matter with respect; hopefully it is also the start of an above average series.