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A Line In The Sand Hardcover – August 8, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gerald Seymour is one of the most skillful writers of espionage fiction. While many of his peers seem flummoxed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the need to find new battles, causes, and villains, he hasn't been constrained by the vagaries of geopolitics. Here he delivers a well-plotted suspense thriller that sets Frank Perry, a seemingly ordinary man with an extraordinary past, against an Iranian assassin, the British secret service, and friends and neighbors in the small Suffolk village where Perry went underground a decade after MI5 blackmailed him into spying on Iran's efforts to perfect chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

Even the woman Perry loves and the young boy they've been raising together don't know that Frank is not the man they thought he was--in fact, he isn't even Frank Perry. Now Iran's search has led the assassin, code-named the Anvil, right to Perry's hiding place, but Frank has drawn a line in the sand, refusing to be frightened into leaving the home and family he's created under an assumed identity. Instead he'll face the Anvil on his own ground. But when the community turns against him, fearing for its own safety, he's more alone than he's ever been. The more they hound him to leave, the more adamant he becomes, despite the increasing danger. The secret service and special forces are supposed to be ensuring his safety, but it seems more like they are staking a goat to lure a predator into a trap than protecting a valuable asset who crippled a rogue nation's terrorist arsenal.

Seymour excels not only in pacing and plotting but also in characterization. Perry is exceptionally well developed, but so is the junior intelligence officer assigned to his case who is wrestling with his own patriotic impulses and the equally compelling allure of a more conventional and remunerative life outside the espionage community. This is a riveting, character-driven story that engages the reader from start to finish. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Cleverly observed smalltown social dynamics, brilliantly paced suspense and a plot driven as much by character as action prove again why English thriller writer Seymour (Dead Ground; The Journeyman Taylor) is a master of the form. Five years ago, Frank Perry was Gavin Hughes, sharp young salesman for an engineering manufacturing company and spy for the British government. As a spy, Perry successfully sabotaged Iran's chemical weapons industry. Forced underground, he has lived under an assumed identity for several years in a small English village on the coast of Suffolk. When Perry inadvertently betrays his whereabouts, Iranian agents locate him and dispatch their top hit man to kill him. Tipped off to the threat, the British Security Service tries to convince Perry to move away. He adamantly refuses, saying he's done running. The security service sends in a huge task force of armed guards to protect Perry and his wife and son. As the killerDcode name AnvilDbides his time hiding out in the surrounding marshland, Perry and his family find their lives turned upside down, first by the pushy demands of their bodyguards, then by the hostility of their friends and neighbors. One by one, the villagers turn against the family, whom they blame for putting them at risk. Seymour's depiction of village lifeDthe broken ambitions, the petty jealousies, the social cliquesDis drawn in such fine detail that the provincial milieu becomes a fascinatingly appropriate setting for a showdown between international combatants. The plot moves along with deceptive cool, relying on tension between characters, offscreen action and telling commentary about the shady world of foreign relations to create a rare, smart thriller. Agent, Peter Matson. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (August 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684854775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684854779
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,116,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A decade ago, under a different name, Frank Perry spied for his government against his customer, Iran when he fingered the locations of several of the country,s biochemical warfare plants. Frank was feeling safe in England for himself and his family until M15 informs him that Iran has fingered him for assassination. To the shock of the espionage community, Frank refuses to run.

The Anvil is coming to destroy the enemy to his state. The English counterintelligence crowd feel obligated to protect Frank. This turns his peaceful village into a mini army post that divides Frank's neighbors. Most of them want their neighbor gone before the Anvil arrives. High Noon is coming to Suffolk.

A LINE IN THE SAND is an exciting espionage tale because the prime players seem genuine in their multidimensional behavior. Frank is a bit crooked, making him a not so perfect hero. The Anvil has many redeeming qualities and is not just a religious killing machine. Even the M15 crowd seems less like super 007s and more like real people as they wonder if they should be proud of Franks' heroism or loathe him for placing them in danger. Even the townsfolk mob mentality of abject fear feels real. The charcaters destroy stereotypes that normally exist in this genre, which turns Gerald Seymour's novel into a triumph of the spirit.

Harriet Klausner
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By A Customer on February 17, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I didn't expect to like this book. I had read and tremendously enjoyed what some call Seymour's Northern Ireland trilogy (Harry's Game, Field of Blood, and the Journeyman Tailor), but I hadn't liked another effort, Kingfisher.
But while I eagerly continue to wait for another Seymour thriller centered in Northern Ireland, I decided to read his book Untouchable, which while not perfect, had me in its grip from the first to last page.
So I decided to give Seymour another whirl, and I picked out A Line in the Sand. After reading it in about two days, I have to say the analogy one reviewer made of Seymour's plots coiling around a reader like a boa constrictor as the tension builds to an unbearable level is well put. The book is very hard to put down, and really doesn't have any flaws (apart from a couple of minor facts not worth mentioning here).
Furthermore, like in his other books Seymour doesn't just write a thriller, he presents the reader with an ethical question. "What would you do if you found out your neighbor was marked for death by a state sponsor of terror like Iran? Would you rally to his side, stand aloof, or try to drive him out of your pretty little village?"
As for myself, I'd like to think that I'd continue to be a friend and neighbor, but suggest that my good friend the terrorist target take a long vacation until the threat subsided.
Bottom Line: A superb read, it is reportedly being made into a movie even as I write this. I look forward to seeing that . . .
. . . But I hope with all my heart that with his next book (titled Meaning No Evil) Seymour returns to his familiar stomping grounds of Northern Ireland and with all the wonderful characters that he created there: Inspector Rennie, Cathy Parker, Gary Brennard, and of course, Frankie, the IRA man.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I think it is unfair to expect this book to grab you in the first few chapters; that is not Gerald Seymour's style. His style is that of a boa constrictor's, where the pressure builds slowly until you realize you are grasping for breath. It is like comparing John LeCarre to Tom Clancy. There is a world of difference, Clancy writes for the masses, and LeCarre is an author. Gerald Seymour is an author, and while this is not his best book ( Holding the Zero has that distinction ) it lives up to his fans' expectations. Frank Perry was an informant for MI6, the British Secret Service, but his use to them is over and they have let him go, with a new identity. However, the new identity has been breached, and now the Iranian secret service has sent their best man, the " Anvil ", to repay Perry for his treachery. The British try to move Perry out with yet another new identity, but Perry is not running anymore. He has a wife and son now, and lives in a small town where he has friends who will rally to him. Or so he thinks anyway. The tension builds as the Anvil makes his way to the small town where Perry resides, and the townspeople rebel at the presence of British security turning Perry's home into a small fort. Plot turns are sudden, with moments of unbearable sadness. What most impacts are the thoughts of Perry, as he reflects on his life and his decision to stay rather than run, with the implications of that decision. Seymour provides us with real people dealing in genuine ways with rather difficult situations. This separates him from the spoonfed drivel of Clancy, where the heroes are infallible and their motives are clear and good. Highly recommended.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is another tightly plotted thriller from Gerald Seymour that is awfully hard to put down once you start reading. The author often places relatively ordinary people into extraordinary situations - and he does so in this book. Seymour doesn't write about superheroes - I can't imagine Harrison Ford playing any role in any film of a Seymour book. Instead Seymour creates highly believable characters, complete with foibles, weaknesses, irrational impulses and some strengths. The main characters in "A Line in the Sand" all have their own weaknesses, strengths and motivations. Seymour weaves these together with great skill to create a taut, tense thriller.
Seymour books often differ from the Clancys and Ludlums of the world in another respect - don't expect too many happy endings. Seymour writes about worlds where there's a certain inevitability of disaster - and he often lets disasters happen. That makes his stories much more credible, and much more frightening than most.
Seymour also poses moral dilemmas for his characters. He's not an author who thinks one side is completely right and the other completely wrong. For Seymour, all combatants are flawed in some respects. In "A Line in the Sand", Seymour creates a moral dilemma for the inhabitants of a small English village - do they support one of their own or deflect a threat to their village by casting that person out ?
I enjoyed "A Line in the Sand". In fact, it's one of Seymour's best novels so far.
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