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Night Heron Hardcover – May 27, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In 1989, Li Huasheng (code name Peanut) was a promising Beijing engineer and the ringleader of a group of would-be defectors trading China’s technology secrets to the UK. But their operation aborted when Peanut was imprisoned in a labor camp after impulsively attacking a soldier during the Tiananmen Square protests. Two decades later, Peanut returns to Beijing, desperate to renew the deal with UK intelligence that he’s kept secret all these years. Peanut mistakes British journalist Philip Mangan for an undercover operative and approaches him with top-secret information he’s strong-armed from a member of his former ring who has since risen in the party. Mangan manages to get the “proof” documents to the embassy, and he’s immediately drafted into the world of espionage. But their secret world isn’t as impenetrable as one would think, and the operation is threatened by a technology-hunting corporate intelligence team and leaks from American intelligence to the Chinese government. Brookes, a former BBC China correspondent, offers a tension-laden portal to modern China, contrasting Mangan’s foreign perspective with Peanut’s experiences to illustrate the impact of party politics on Chinese citizens. Night Heron is a fascinating portrait of the dangerous complexities of spying in a restricted country, the competing agendas driving international intelligence, and China’s startlingly varied social realities. A must-read for fans of espionage and smart global fiction in general. --Christine Tran

Review

"The must-read thriller of the year."―NPR Books

"One of the best and most compulsively readable spy-fiction debuts in years."―Kirkus

"The pace is frenetic and Brookes does a wonderful job with both the high-tech world of cyber intelligence and survival on Beijing's gritty, smog-smothered streets. Highly recommended."―The Bookseller

Night Heron is a fascinating portrait of the dangerous complexities of spying in a restricted country, the competing agendas driving international intelligence, and China's startlingly varied social realities.A must-read for fans of espionage and smart global fiction in general.―Booklist (starred review)

"Night Heron is a wonderfully cinematic novel -- I felt myself visually transported into every scene, watching the action unfold -- that also immersed me in the sounds and smells and feel of China, all the while telling a rich, complex espionage story. A remarkable accomplishment."―Chris Pavone, author of international bestseller The Expats

"Fans of the international espionage genre will inhale this fast tale in a few suspenseful breaths. Brookes uses multiple narrators -- the spy, the engineer, the journalist, the agent, the boss -- whose conflicting alliances tell the real story."―Library Journal

"Brookes, a correspondent for BBC News in Washington, DC, who was formerly based in China, takes readers deep inside the culture and daily routines of that country in his outstanding fiction debut... Good chase scenes and tense dialogue, coupled with a convincing picture of what actually happens in the corridors of power, make Brookes a thriller writer to watch."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Redhook (May 27, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316399833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316399838
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #734,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zoeeagleeye VINE VOICE on May 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Night Heron keeps the reader moving into the pages as we try to figure out what will happen next. From the opening sentence, "Prisoner 5995 was where he should not be, and fear was congealing in his mouth.", to the closing, "Don't stand still, thought Peanut. Stillness is the enemy. Move.", the reader finds surprises and violent action around every other corner. Adam Brookes knows how to build suspense and maintain it, knows how to spread the mystery.

You will enjoy this book if you tend to live in your intellect and eschew emotion. You will enjoy this book if you love detailed accountings, paced scenes that lead inexorably to trouble, clues that drop into the pages perfectly timed. There are people who will absolutely dote on the minutiae of the step-by-step laying down of the plot and endless perambulations throughout the city. In addition, Beijing is wonderfully evoked as is all the rest of China, wherever the book takes you.

My problem with the book is twofold: One, there is no love in the book, no real hope, few ideals, and very little personal integrity among the characters to balance out the bleakness. Expediency and covering one's a## seem to be the ruling cause. Two, many of the people, while very well drawn are not very appealing or likeable. They are there to serve the plot and not on their own behalf. A book may be well-written, but will come off differently depending on whether the author has a theme or idea in mind in which to hang characters on, or if he chooses the characters and inserts them into a situation.

It's obvious, of course, that there will be violence in a book such as this. Readers can expect it. But that didn't suit me personally.
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Format: Hardcover
Night Heron kept me up long after I’d planned to go to sleep. You’ll just want to keep turning the pages. And you’ll be disappointed when you find there are so few left in the morning. The good news is that a couple of the characters’ fates remain unresolved. Perhaps we can expect a sequel.

It’s clearly a product of ferocious research - most especially into the workings of both British and Chinese secret services. But the treat is the authority with which Brookes writes about China, a country with which he’s had a long association; how he lays out the cultural landscape of a vast, diverse, complex country.

It is the incidental detail that for me really brings the story alive. We believe Brookes has walked these unpronounceable streets, eaten this food - “trembling dumplings” at one point, Uighur kebabs at another, lots of Sechzuan chillies - and picked the ubiquitous dust of Beijing out of his own teeth. He uses a certain amount of Mandarin - I think we could have done with more - and this is very revealing. (How can you begin to understand a culture if you don’t understand its language?) How telling, for example, that the labour camp guards are known as “thunders” because they’re always shouting. And what a nice detail, even if you don’t speak a word of the language, to hear how the hard Beijing accent compares to the sibilance of its southern counterparts.

Take it to the beach.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Adam Brookes brings a deep knowledge of China from his time in country, his academic study, and his experience as a reporter. That authenticity is evident in the locations, the atmosphere, and the characters.

The story is state of the art espionage, with tension mounting as the operation gets going and then starts to go bad.

Great first novel, highly recommended to those with an interest in spy novels and/or China
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading "Night Heron" and thoroughly enjoyed it. Adam Brooks is not (yet) a late LeCarre, but that's an unjust comparison. Compare this book to "A Murder of Quality" not "Smiley's People" and it stands on equal terms.
The story picks up very quickly with "Peanut's" escape from prison and moves forward quickly. I am surprised to read so many reviewers who thought it was dull. I did not find it dull, but continually imaginative and the action fast paced. It's description of the players in the silent cyberwar with China were believable and probably predictive.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Adam Brookes has demonstrated in his debut thriller, Night Heron, that he is a very good writer and has the potential to be one of the better writers in the spy thriller genre.

I won't take your time by providing a description of the plot, as you can get this from the Booklist review and from other reader reviews. Rather, to help you decide if Night Heron is a book you'd be interested in reading, I'd like to provide you with what I consider to be its strengths and a few areas that, while not bad, could have been better.

Regarding Night Heron's strengths, Brookes clearly makes modern day China come alive for the reader by creating a strong cinematic sense of what life in China, and particularly, Beijing is like. I felt that I was right there alongside the book's characters taking in the all various sights, smells and sounds the city and country has to offer. Further, although the detailed plot takes its time to develop, the book ultimately provides the reader with a sufficient amount of twists and turns to make staying with it worthwhile. In addition, Brookes does a credible job in introducing the reader to an interesting cast of primary and secondary characters.

Based on these strengths I enjoyed Night Heron...but I didn't love it.

My enjoyment could have been enhanced had Brookes done the following: moved the plot along at a faster pace; developed his characters so that the reader could have formed more of an emotional attachment to them in order to care more about what happens to them, rather than just getting an understanding of who they are and what they are trying to accomplish; and, while the book had its share of twists and turns, I would have liked to have been made to feel more excited about the outcome of these events.

Overall, while not pefect (but how many books are?), Night Heron is a worthwhile read and Brookes is a writer that deserves spy thriller readers' attention.
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