63 of 71 people found the following review helpful
That's my plot summary, right there.
Author Dunn may have a background in intelligence, but he writes the kind of story I'd expect to see from a testosterone-raddled teenager, or maybe from Marvel Comics.
First, as many others have mentioned, there's the opening of the story that sees our hero, Will Cochrane, riddled in the gut with three bullets. Not only does that barely slow him down, but he's able to continue on with his mission, spending hours in airplanes, carrying on all his normal duties, beating people up, killing other people, etcetera. I have to wonder how much of a superman he is when he's NOT suffering gunshot wounds.
Bring on the kryptonite.
Chapter 13 is a great example of the idiocy of this book. Cochrane goes to the home of an NSA officer - to whom Dunn doesn't even bother giving a name - breaks in, beats the guy up, and threatens to kill his family. This unnamed character is a LOYAL American intelligence analyst. Why does he do this? Because he's trying to determine if an NSA intelligence source named "Hubble" has been possibly compromised.
He doesn't go through channels at the NSA; he doesn't approach the guy as a loyal compatriot. He beats the snot out of him for absolutely no reason at all. Then, when he's done and ready to leave, he threatens the guy and his wife and kids, saying, "Do this, and you and your loved ones get to live. Fail, and everything you love will die."
What the hell? This is supposed to be believable? Why wouldn't the guy report this to his bosses at the NSA immediately? It was so ridiculous I laughed out loud. This is the kind of puerile nonsense you expect from teenagers, as I said, or maybe a Vin Deisel movie.
Cochrane has the uncanny ability to take two or three international flights a day, simply to attend meetings. How does he do it? Are there no security lines in European airports? Don't those pesky - or maybe not so pesky - bullet wounds EVER bother him?
Apparently not, to both questions.
It goes on like that throughout the book. Super-duper-spy Cochrane taking on impossible odds and beating them every time in the most unlikely and unbelievable ways. Characters that are even less than two-dimensional, like the NSA analyst who didn't even rate a name.
Why would Lee Child and Jeffrey Deaver (on the Amazon product page) hawk this book? I can only guess that neither actually read the darned thing, and both were star-struck by a guy who has an actual background in intelligence. But being in intelligence and being able to write about it are two completely different things.
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
We have this British tough guy, code name Spartan.
For a moment, pretend his name is Biggles. It will help you understand how dumb this book is.
Biggles starts by protecting his Iranian source, in New York City for no good reason except the author probably cannot describe Tehran, from Iranian hit squads -- dozens of well-armed Iranian hit-spies in the Big Apple. What a sensible set-up.
He shoots 8-12 of them, and his compatriots, Able, Baker, and Charlie, or shall we call them Apple, Butthead, and Chump, are also killed. (Nobody ever mentions them again, because who cares about dead British agents.) He kills his Iranian source rather than letting him be captured, and as he falls into unconsciousness, he notes his three wounds, including a gaping hole in his abdomen.
Biggles wakes up the next morning feeling a bit stiff, but OK. Because a sorta doctor from the CIA has "fixed him". And because Spartan-Biggles is too damn tough to let three bullet wounds slow him down for a freaking minute. He pops a few pills and begins emoting.
After a strange, wooden, blocky conversation with CIA guy Patrick, he flies home. During the conversation, we learn that "Spartan-Biggles" is the one British agent code named Spartan, the product of a training process so tough that IF you survive it, you get to be the one guy named Biggles..... err, Spartan.
Yes, this makes sense. Sure. It takes several hundred thousand dollars to train one special forces trooper, so how about creating a training program that takes several of these guys, and trains them so hard that they DIE, and if one happens to survive, lets call him Biggles and make him a super-agent. By becoming Biggles, I think he gets $11 more per week.
As we progress, we find that our Biggles has a great habit. He often looks around the room, at all the people, and notes to himself and to them, that he might just have to kill them all, and of course, he could, and they know he could, because he is Biggles, the super-tough guy. When a book fails to note that several armed men can kill one armed man, even one with a cool code name, the book has lost touch with reality.
Biggles is no George Smiley. The conceit of this book is that Biggles is such a spymaster, that his skills will be unique in catching spies. Err... no, the plotting does not build, there are no layers, there are lots of shootings and knifings.
This book continues on this adolescent route, with a leaden hero who is laughable, who survives anything, kills dozens, and is a BAD comic book hero. Most of these adventure type novels have their traces of adolesence... Jack Reacher wanders the world a bit too much. Jack Ryan goes from analyst to shooter with no pause. But this guy lacks the tiniest bit of realism, the layer of connection to what being a tough guy is really all about (and it is not cartoon violence and walking away from gaping holes in your abdomen).
The writing is blocky, the dialogue is so bad it makes me giggle, the posturing lead character is such an ass that somebody would have hit him on the head with a shovel when his back was turned, years ago, as he was noting to the room that he just might have to kill them all. It becomes clear that the author is one of those guys whose toughest real life experience was a paper cut, who barely understands how to fight off a nap, and has no clear sense of how real people conduct themselves in a world of violence. I mean, the author has "MI6" experience -- did he shoot 8 guys in Central Park on a counter-terrorism operation? If not, then why does he make his hero live out such teen fantasies?
The author should have asked himself... if I called this guy Biggles instead of Spartan, would it work? And the answer would have been yes, because the book is a farce.
35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Will Cochrane is a spy on the MI6 payroll. But not just any old pedestrian spy. He is "Spartan", Britain's only super-spy. And he's good. He's very, very good.
MI6 and the CIA know that Iran is plotting a large terrorist event, but don't have details. Cochrane starts with a small lead and is soon on the trail of Megiddo, who runs not only Iran's terrorist operations, but has a finger on nearly every terrorist activity in the world. Time is very much of the essence, and Cochrane zips across the globe, slowly unravelling an incredibly elaborate scheme.
Things move fast, and Cochrane is brilliant but not infallible, which makes everything far more interesting. He's sort of a modern day James Bond, but less debonair and more callous. The plotting here is devious and believable, so much so that Megiddo could well have been based on a real person. I've been to some of the locales, and they are all authentically described. As hair-on-fire spy thrillers go, this has a lot going for it.
My main problem is with Cochrane. Much like Clive Cussler's "Dirk Pitt" character, he absorbs damage that would cripple any normal human, and keeps right on going. Early on, he's shot three times, with exit wounds through the abdomen. The next day he's up and walking, two days later he's moving at nearly full speed. Another time he's shot through the shoulder, seriously enough that his left arm is hanging uselessly by his side. A day later, he uses his left hand to strangle a strong man to death. He's about one step away from being a T-1000 cyborg unit, and that detracts from an otherwise tight story.
This book is just a hair short of being great. Make Cochrane more believably human and this series will be unstoppable. Count me in for the next few installments; I can't wait to see where this is all headed!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2013
If you have the opportunity to buy this book off the bargain rack or check it out free from a library, then go for it because it is probably one of the most unintentionally hilarious books I have read in a very long time. It is that bad.
How many books have a lead character shot up twice, nearly strangled to death, be blown up by concussion grenades, etc. ,etc, and then give us these delightful details: he puts on Chanel Platinum Egoiste eau de toilette, a French-cuff shirt and a Hugo Boss suit before facing the bad guy.
Trust me I am not a remotely good enough writer myself to do justice to how bad this book is. You have to read it to believe it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2013
I bought this book because the author was described in The Economist no less as an excellent thriller writer. Mistakes happen.
Will Cochrane is James Bond without brains or elegance, but with superhuman abilities. In the first chapter he suffers three shots to the belly, with 'gaping' exit wounds. Not only is he up and working within two days. No, additionally in the course of approximately 2 weeks he is shot in the shoulder, his head is grazed by a bullet, he jumps through a glass window after which dagger sized shards protrude from his leg, he might have had one more wound from a shot (I stopped counting), he is beaten unconscious once or twice and he can still sprint through central park. Like Batman he is also driven by the loss of his father, but unlike Batman he later also lost his mother to murder. By the way, his opponent also lost father and mother to murder - probably Mr. Dunn ran out of other options to motivate his main characters.
His enemy beats him, also physically, all the time, except naturally in the final shootout. This fiendish enemy makes the mortal mistake to which nearly all superfiends succumb: In the moment of their triumph they feel the need to tell their vanquished opponent all their secret plans instead of simply killing him off.
Just a few other gems: An Iranian suicide terrorist tells Mr. Cochrane, after 1 minute interrogation and mortally wounded, what he needs to know. 90 seconds are sufficient for him to search an entire office and find a list of terrorists. How convenient that terrorists tend to keep their most sensitive data in paper from and unencrypted. The lover of his enemy, after a love that lasted 18 years, and about to explode a suicide bomb for him, is, within a two minute conversation with Will, convinced that her lifelong love has betrayed her - not that Will offers any evidence apart from "Your lover told me he does not love you". The meticolously planned plot, whose preparation took years and spanned several continents, needed a last minute renovation of the target to provide access for the assassins. All these super-secret spies drive these typical spy vehicles with darkened windows, normally a Mercedes 500S or similar, and they mostly stay in 5* hotels. For no apparent reason they hold their meetings always in person, but in locations which are not central to the plot, e.g. Oslo. Probably they do it for the frequent flier miles, because the pay cannot be that good in government service. As they only travel first class, this gives them a lot of miles. The British operate a training program for super spies which only 1 person is allowed to survive...... so you have 10 very good men and you kill off 9? Now I understand why the SAS does not seem to be as successful as the Seals or the Delta Force - the British training programs are just to rigorous, they kill their own before the Taliban do it.
Dialogues are wooden and to call the characters twodimensional would do them an unjustified honor.
In summary: Please do stop writing, Mr. Dunn, and, where can I get my refund?
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2012
This is one of the worst books I've read in 2012. Never mind the unbelievable plot events that others have commented on. It's just awful writing. It's as if Dunn is following a formula as he writes he sentences with some kind of action, then dialogue: Will nodded. "Are you telling me..." Will sighed. "I can't believe..." Will looked around. "I came here because..." Count the number of times characters shake their heads, nod, shake their heads harder, frown, sigh, [insert some other mundane action] all before speaking. Not very imaginative writing and downright distracting.
Dunn spends an entire paragraph on page 46 with step-by-step instructions on how to make a cup of tea (as if this is a skill only a top spy knows how to do). Nothing comes of this, just wasted words to slog through in search of a character worth rooting for. The reader never gets into the thoughts and feelings of the main character, who is a cardboard video game or action movie character. Though I doubt Dunn realizes it, he ironically admits his inability to know his character on page 278: "Will wondered why he had made this journey. He tried to understand his thoughts." If your character doesn't even know what he is thinking or why, you're in trouble as an author.
My guess is Dunn got this book contract based on his past experiences and not on the merits of his writing, maybe even had a "ghost" help him draft the chapters. At least then he wouldn't be solely culpable for producing this poor grade shallow fiction.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2012
Didn't hold my interest from the start and very drawn out. Too slow for me. Not one with a good character or plot.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
One of the reasons Ian Fleming's James Bond series (the books, not the films) is almost addictive is that the Bond character Fleming wrote about was a flawed and tragic character. Unlike the almost cartoon character that Bond became onscreen, in the novels he was a gritty government assassin who got the toughest assignments. Along the way he is tortured, shot, stabbed, and anything else you could imagine, all the while fighting his inner demons that eventually lead him to insanity. Matthew Dunn's SPYCATCHER appears to be another of many attempts to use the Bond series as a template for a spy yarn. In Will Cochrane we find early on how his tragic childhood, his father's disappearance and his mother's brutal murder, has lead him to basically become a sociopath. The success of his assignments have been his only priority no matter the cost in bodies, friend or foe. When he meets a vulnerable women that he is forced to manipulate in order to catch a top Iranian terrorist all of this begins to change.
For the action lover there is a lot to like here. The violence starts at the very beginning of the book and never lets up. As Cochrane bounces all over the world in his quest of capturing the terrorist and preventing a horrific attack the body count continues to climb dramatically. But this brings us to what has become the problem with these types of books; the hero is superhuman. He can not be killed no matter what happens to him. We see him shot, stabbed, blown-up, caught by the bad guys and tortured, and even lying defenseless at gunpoint and he's not killed. One scene has two grenades exploding right in front of him and he manages to only lose part of an ear. After a while it gets to be a bit silly. The end of the book does try and throw a "GOTCHA" in there but unfortunately it was predictable, causing what should have been an explosive climax to fizzle.
Overall it's not a bad book, one that does show some promise for a series in the making. If you love reading action-packed and violent spy books then this may be right up your alley. If you are looking for at least some realism in the story this may be too over-the-top for you. Personally, I'll probably read the next installment and then make a decision on whether I want to continue
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2013
The story line itself was interesting but the characterizations were unrealistic and melodramatic. John LeCarre he is not. Spend your time reading something better.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2014
The only thing more mind-boggling than how bad this novel is, is that some people actually gave it 4 and 5 stars. This is the worst thing I have read in years. What a fraud that this is promoted as something realistic from a former MI6 agent. Fortunately, I got it from my libaray so it cost me nothing to read. I finally stopped reading it after the hero kills the villain, so I don't know how the book ends, but I don't care.