I like Robert Harris’ historical novels, they are well researched, bring the characters to life and are an easy read. V2 is set at the end of WW2 as the SS step up the launches of V2 rockets at London in a last endeavour to turn the tide of the war.

Rudi Graf is a rocket scientist and engineer working at the missile launch site in occupied Holland. The narrative flashes back to his youth and his friendship with Wernher von Braun and their shared passion for rockets and space travel.

Kay Caton-Walsh is a WAAF officer posted to Belgium as part of desperate attempt to find the launch sites and destroy them by reverse calculating the path of the V2s as they launch and subsequently land in London.

While Graf is increasingly doubting the morality and sanity of his masters, the British realise that their operation in Belgium may be compromised.

V2 is not Harris’ best novel (my favourites are the Cicero trilogy) but if you like the minutiae of WW2 military stuff then you will enjoy this.


Total Blackout

Total Blackout by Alex Shaw is a page turner that grabs you in the first couple of pages.

Jack Tate is an MI6 agent and former SAS officer on vacation in Maine when a rogue Russian and Chinese taskforce triggers an electro-magnetic pulse device that wipes out all electrical and electronic equipment in the US (apparently this is also a side effect of a nuclear explosion). In the chaos that follows the leader of the Russian team is determined to settle several scores with those who he believes have insulted the Russian state and ultimately with Tate and his brother.

Total Blackout feels like it has been written to make into a Netflix type production and you can see further adventures for Tate and his brother. It’s not deep and it’s not that believable but it is fun and would make a good holiday read.


The Rhino Conspiracy

The Rhino Conspiracy by Peter Hain is set in modern day South Africa, it combines a page turner about the battle against rhino poachers with a scathing critique of the corruption that pervaded South Africa in the post Mandela era.

Hain is well qualified to expose the corruption of the modern state but I was surprised at how good a thriller writer he is. This is really really good, I wonder what he will do next?


The House of Lamentations

The House of Lamentations is the 5th in Shona Maclean’s much praised Seeker series.

It’s 1658, Damian Seeker is living under cover in Bruges keeping tabs on the royalist followers of the exiled King Charles who are scheming to restore Charles to the thrown. Meanwhile in London the Protector, Cromwell, is in the last days of his life and all around him are preparing for a power shift and a new leader.

The royalists have discovered that there is a spy within their midst they have no idea who it is and send their own spy to spy on Seeker’s spy. Complicated? Yes but Maclean weaves a complex plot around these characters while providing a fascinating and detailed understanding of life in 17th century Bruges and the politics of England and Europe.

The House of Lamentations is historical fiction at it’s very best. The publisher says this is the last in the series. I hope not!


Power Play

Power Play by Tony Kent is a very readable thriller.

An aircraft is blown up halfway across the Atlantic, one of the passengers is the leading candidate in the forthcoming US Presidential election. The baggage handler, a Syrian refugee, who placed the bomb confesses but rapidly questions arise as to whether he is a terrorist or a stooge.

It soon becomes evident that forces close to the current President are trying to shut down the legal team defending the baggage handler and the intelligence agency that starts to investigate.

This a fast paced but really rather preposterous page turner. At the end my reaction was – “really?”. I can imagine this being script fodder for the production machines of Amazon or Netflix but as a read it leaves quite a bit to be desired.


Hitler’s Secret

Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements is a “what if?” spy thriller set in 1941.

Martin Bormann is desperately trying to locate and kill Hitler’s illegitimate daughter before Hitler and the rest of Germany learn about her existence. Tom Wilde an American academic based in Cambridge is recruited by British intelligence services and their US counterparts to get into Germany, find the child and get her to safety. Of course things aren’t as simple as they appeared, who are Tom’s allies and helpers in Germany? Why are they helping?

This tale of intrigue amongst the different factions of the German leadership, competition between the British and the US has plenty of twists and turns and is quite easy to read but overall it is both unbelievable and predictable. Might make a good film script for the streaming factories.