Wouldn't it be nice if there were a heaven in which all good deeds were handsomely rewarded? If there were, Mike Ripley would be assured of a place of honour – not for his beguiling novels (worthy though they are), but for his exemplary work in bringing back into publication (under the auspices of Ostara/Top Notch Thrillers) some unjustly neglected thriller writers. The list grows apace, and some very cherishable books are appearing -- not least this remarkably accomplished novel from one of the best thriller writers this country has ever produced, Alan Williams.
As usual with Williams, it's hard to know what to praise first: the pungently realised setting (late 60s Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam), the fetid atmosphere (a war-wracked country awash with corruption and drug smuggling) or the laser-sharp characterisation: Murray Wilde, a compromised Irish journalist; Jacqueline, a seductive Frenchwoman with a CIA husband and an elastic approach to her marriage vows; and the crude, brutal but intelligent Sammy Ryderbeit, a rogue pilot with whom Murray and Jacqueline will be thrown into mortal danger. Best of all, though, is the plotting: the hijacking of a massive consignment of US dollars by an ill-assorted group of mercenaries. It is as assured as one would expect from the ever-dependable Williams. Frankly, very little this good is being written today.
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