Crisis: the action-packed Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller

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Crisis: the action-packed Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller

Crisis: the action-packed Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller

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We got to learn a bit about his line of work being a secret agent for the London MI5, we learnt a bit about his younger years when he grew up in Colombia (the other half to the novels setting), but mostly we got to learn about his lovely girlfriend Elise and their budding relationship which was slightly hindered due to his line of work. As an ex-Special Forces officer he would know about not taking unnecessary risks, but that is precisely what Gardner has him doing.

You just presume that his telling of how MI5, MI6, and the other security services work is as accurate as it can be.The action swings back and forth between London and Colombia as the story moves to a thrilling climax. Awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to journalism, Frank Gardner was profiled in the BBC's television series, Who Do You Think You Are? As a somewhat newbie to this sort of book, it felt like James Bond meets Alex Rider with a healthy dash of grown-up thrown in. Author of 4 bestselling books ‘ Blood and Sand‘ describing his Middle East experiences and ‘ Far Horizons‘ describing unusual journeys to unusual places, Crisis, his debut spy thriller set in Colombia, and Ultimatum – his latest thriller.

Again, I understand that Gardner is trying hard to keep things within the bounds of the plausible, and ex-SBS officer Carlton fits that mold to a tee.I felt for Elise a bit in this novel, you could feel her pain as she hardly knew where her boyfriend kept dissappearing to and just when she thought he was back for good, he was off on another mission. Drawing on his years of experience reporting on security matters, CRISIS is Frank Gardner’s debut novel. BBC’s fulltime Security Correspondent reporting on events from Afghanistan to piracy off the Somali coast to Arctic challenges. Often this is done by making Carlton ask questions, or suffer an apparent loss of memory so that someone has to explain things to him. Gardner needed to work far harder to create a more rounded, and complex lead character, rather than relying on lazy shortcuts.

With that pedigree, therefore, I was expecting something a little more interesting than what Gardner gives us in “Crisis”. It is from the Frederick Forsyth school of thriller writing – a brilliantly fashioned, but unlikely tale – executed by an adrenaline-fuelled cast of characters. Frank Gardner however, whilst not resorting to Le Carre-style kitchen-sink realism, definitely wants the reader to feel they’re being shown an accurate portrayal of contemporary intelligence gathering and espionage, not a world of tricked-out Aston Martins and bikini-clad babes (the former even gets a jokey reference in the book’s dialogue, as if the author was trying to make a none-too-subtle point). I was hoping someone of Frank Gardner's impressive journalistic background would be able to come up with something a bit less derivative than this by-the-numbers spook yarn with its cliche square-jawed ex-Commando hero and assorted snarling, one-dimensional Latino baddies.

But, that aside, most of what Gardner gives us defies belief, provides too much detail and not enough characterisation. Past half way is where the suspense begins, a slow and steady start but it does get there and the true gripping chapters come out to play.

The second Luke Carlton thriller, Ultimatum, was also a Sunday Times top 10 bestseller, as was the third, Outbreak. Shot 6 times at close range while on assignment in Saudi Arabia in 2004, left severely wounded and dependant on a wheelchair. I really did enjoy the main character Luke, we didn't really get to uncover a hell of a lot about him. All of these and more could have and should have been edited out to streamline the plot and cut the page count significantly. This effects the pace of the plot as well as character development and due to the underdeveloped characters and character relationships I didn't really feel connected to any of them throughout.

Honestly, if she had said ‘Babes’ one more time in a way that no real woman outside of The Only Way Is Essex actually would I would have screamed. There are a lot of characters but other than Luke, Elise Angela and Jorge, the rest aren't really memorable.

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