The Saboteur

Written by Simon Conway

Review written by Michael Jecks

The Saboteur
Hodder and Stoughton
RRP: £16.99
Released: August 19 2021

As a reviewer and reader, there are rather few authors whose work I look forward to every year. My old stand-bys like John le Carre and John Gardner, are dead. Other favourites aren’t writing any more either, so on my short list of writers to look out for, Simon Conway is at the top.

It is not only the sheer inventiveness of his plots and writing, it is the obvious deep understanding he has of his subject matter. Conway was a British Army officer and more recently an aid worker. He has helped in landmine clearance, and travelled the world helping make munitions safe and disposing of them. Now he works with The HALO Trust, responding to the urbanisation of warfare and the growing use of improvised explosive devices. This is a guy who, when he writes about terrorists and their tools, has a conviction and authenticity you cannot ignore.

And all of this experience is brought to his books.

I have been fortunate enough to read several of his books, starting with RAGE. Up until now, I believe his books have been stand-alone stories, but with THE SABOTEUR, he has created a sequel to last year’s THE STRANGER, which was a book I had to rate as one of the very best thrillers of last year.

THE STRANGER was a superb cross between John le Carre and Frederick Forsythe - or, as the Sunday Mail said, “a bit of Homeland, a touch of Spooks and an undercurrent of The Thick of It”. It brought to life the murky world of modern spying, the difficulties, the betrayals, the deceptions and the violence of the modern counter terrorist operatives.

This sequel follows on with the same theme. It begins with a superb set-piece action sequence. In only seven pages he sets the scene perfectly, bringing arrival in Syria, a helicopter crash and firefight, depicting them all with such an economy of language that you are transported straight to that scene. And then he tightens the screw and the action develops.

From Syria, we return to Jude Lyon’s home ground at the MI6 headquarters in London. The city has been devastated by a terrorist, Fowle, whom we met in THE STRANGER, and who has been arrested. But when taken to court, he is freed in a daring raid by a Russian group, and Jude Lyon must try to find him. Not least because Fowle has access to a doomsday plan that must leave the UK utterly ravaged and will kill tens of thousands - if not more. In a series of escalating attacks, Fowle increases the pressure and Lyon must try to catch up with the terrorist before he can achieve his objective.

Put so baldly, it sounds like many other stories. However, this is different. Simon Conway knows this world, and his writing carries real credibility. He is that rare thing, a writer who can thrill even with a complex plot, and set it out so clearly that the reader is sucked in. Conway has created, with Jude Lyon, a very modern hero, and one who will run for many more stories, I hope.

Basically, if you are going to read any thriller this year, make it this one. Very highly recommended.

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