This was a pleasant read, set in and routed in the politics of the middle east; this story is listed as the first in the new Mark Sava series. Mark is a former section head of the CIA in Azerbaijan who has retired to civilian life but finds that the pull of his former life will not leave him behind.
This is a spy thriller in the pure sense of the genre with all of the key points; a hero fighting the odds, a beautiful though possibly deceptive woman, a sidekick who comes through thick and thin, guns and many close moments for the hero's.
And there it differs, this is a book that is very obviously well versed in the particular politics and social views held in the countries and cultures of that part of the world. The book blends the different factions viewpoints together well and presents a complex picture. This made it a real pleasure to read as it was deeper than most of the other thrillers I have read.
I think on the downside, I'm not really sure where the series will next go; there is a danger of following tired paths and the story didn't really leave with an ending that promised a springboard to a great second book. I also found that the pacing of the last part of the book whistled along a little too fast so moments which should have played out over a long time were dealt with in a few pages.
Still, I liked it; a thriller that made me think. More please.
Mark Sava is a former CIA station chief who is now working as a college professor in Baku, Azerbaijan. When a former US Secretary of Defence is assassinated during an international conference, and a former CIA colleague, Daria Buckingham, is arrested and charged with the murder, Sava steps back into his old life. Discovering that everyone in the local CIA field office has been murdered, his quest to discover the truth puts him in great danger from both local enemies and those in Washington. Aided by a former US Navy SEAL, John Decker, Sava is embroiled in a mission which is set against the commercial and diplomatic relationships between America, Iran and China over oil reserves.
Dan Mayland's debut novel is fast paced and action packed. Showing detailed knowledge of Azerbaijan, both the country and it's people, together with gritty, believable and well developed characters in Sava,Decker and Daria, Mayland takes the reader on an informative, tense and complex journey right to the final sentence. Two further books featuring Mark Sava are promised and, given that, in my opinion, he is a cross between Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan (an intelligent, principled veteran)I look forward to both.
The Colonel's Mistake by Dan Mayland is the first novel in a planned series featuring the character Mark Sava who is the former CIA Station Chief in Azerbaijan. He has now left the CIA and is enjoying the quite life of a lecturer at the local University. His peace is disturbed by the assassination of a prominent american at an international oil conference and the arrest of one of his former employees, a young Iranian American girl.
Knowing she is innocent he arranges her escape however an attempt on his own life and the local CIA station being eliminated tells him something big is happening.
Sava and the girl then try to unravel just what is happening and he finds she knows much more than she lets on. What follows is a fast moving modern spy/adventure story full of international intrigue between Iran and America spiced with double dealing, corruption and just a little excessive force.
They move between Azerbaijan, Iran, The Gulf States and Europe a little too freely and it takes a bit of imagination to see just how easily however the story is OK and the conclusion dramatic and perhaps a little obvious.
Easy reading for leisure, you don't have to work hard to follow it and the action keeps flowing. I feel sure if you like this type of story you will enjoy this and I think Dan Mayland has quite a few ideas ready for the next in the series.
Something strange happened when I opened the parcel with this book in it - I was about the leave the house for a hospital appointment and shoved it into my bag. I arrived, booked in, sat down and started reading. I didn't hear them when they called me through I was so engrossed with the story.
I should say now that I am a fan of Tom Clancy's writing and this spy thriller was just what I needed. The chapters are nice and short, meaning that you can read a chapter for a break from the stresses and strains of life for a few minutes and then get back to work.
The story follows retired CIA director Mark Sava who comes out of retirement in order to help CIA operative David Buckingham who has been accused of a dreadful crime in Azerbaijan. Sava isn't just up against the local police but other forces which have their own agendas.
It is fascinating read which kept me entertained for several hours. I have no doubt that there will be a sequel and I look forward to reading it.
on 14 October 2014
Growing up during the 'Cold War' era, I thrived on spy novels such as Len Deighton's excellent 'Game, Set and Match' trilogy (and its sequel trilogy 'Hook, Line and Sinker'), and John Gardner's 'Herbie Kruger' novels ('The Nostradamus Traitor', 'The Garden of Weapons', 'The Quiet Dogs', etc.).
I also loved TV series such as 'The Sandbaggers', which combined cold-war spying with inter-department politics and wrangles between members of the fictional(?) 'Sandbagger' section of the SIS, and with their counterparts in the London Station of the CIA.
Since Glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall, such novels and films have necessarily dwindled, and to date I had found nothing to adequately replace them - until now!
The new set of novels by Dan Mayland, featuring retired CIA agent Mark Sava, have more than adequately replaced those cold-war 'seat of the pants' action spy adventures, made even more interesting by the political intreague of the emerging middle-eastern republics in which they are set.
The Colonel's Mistake is a gripping and pacy read ; never flagging, and drawing the reader ever onwards to the next 'crisis/solution' episode as the plot unfolds.
Unlike many debut novels, it does not overpower the reader with lengthy character introductions which often make the first third of such novels a drag to read ; rather we are fed information about the characters a bit at at time, just as we need it, developing them in the same gradual way we would learn about new acquaintances in real life.
The Author is obviously well acquainted and knowledgeable about the middle-eastern region in which the novel(s) are set, and manages to paint such a realistic picture that readers would feel that they are actually there, observing the action at first hand. Remarkably this is done succinctly, and without protracted or overbearing narrative that could easily overpower the plot.
Overall a great read which is heartily recommended to anyone who enjoyed, and misses, 'cold war' spy novels, and to any other readers who enjoy a gripping action novel with a feeling of realism.
I am looking forward to reading the other novels in this series.
The difference between this book and, for example, Stella Rimington's The Geneva Trap which I happened to be reading at the same time is immense: where that feels confident and assured, shored up with detailed knowledge and authenticity, this is thin and amateur: short chapters, some just a page or two long, no density of politics or characterisation, and an absurdly sentimental edge (the colonel's `mistake' - pah!).
The setting in Baku, Azerbaijan, is done well, but this is fundamentally no more than an airport-thriller romp/boy's own adventure - if that's what you're looking for then well and good but I expected something more complex from the blurb and reviews here.
Mark Sava is a former employee of the CIA, who is recalled to investigate when there is a slaughter of the local CIA operatives in Baku, Azerbaijan. Mark, a former station chief in Baku, follows the trail of intrigue and double dealing around the Middle East in his search for the perpetrators and their motives. He deals with various disparate individuals and groups, all with their own agendas, some of which overlap with Mark's interests and some of which are opposed to them. There is a good measure of international political intrigue to add spice to this tale.
This is a very competent and fast moving spy thriller. The plot is coherent and logical and whilst being relatively complex the author avoids the common mistake of many first time authors in overcomplicating issues. I would imagine that he is familiar with this part of the world and in particular Baku, as his descriptions of this former Soviet Union satellite had all the hallmarks of authenticity and it was easy to imagine the sights and sounds of the place.
The style of the book is that the chapters are short, which keeps the reader engaged, and you tend to want to read that extra chapter just to see what is happening next. I read through this story very quickly and I imagine that most readers will do just that. After this impressive debut novel, I wonder what Dan Mayland has in store for Mark Sava next. He is an interesting character, as is Daria Buckingham, the American Iranian CIA operative who also featured prominently in this book, and who I imagine may also be reappearing in future offerings. The next in the series will certainly be on my reading list.
'The Colonel's Mistake' is an enjoyable and exciting thriller written in a spare, stripped down style.
Predominantly set around the geopolitical flashpoint of Azerbaijan and Northern Iran, but taking in locations as far afield as Dubai, Washington DC and rural France, its a well thought-out and plausible tale of political skulduggery and espionage. The Azerbaijani setting, being not too heavily trafficked by other thrillers, lends the story a fresh feel. The characters, although somewhat stereotypical of the genre (ex-spy brought in from retirement, young female agent with a secret, gauche-yet-competent special forces soldier), are nicely drawn. All are recognisably human and none are superhuman. The investigation they pursue plays out believably, without relying on helpful coincidences or deus ex-machina resolutions. There's also an avoidance of over the top, Hollywood-style action, with much of the actual violence happening off the page. If you're looking for heavy gun play then this is not the book for you.
Dan Maryland's prose style is spare and succinct. Descriptions of locations are evocative without being overly detailed. He keeps the narrative skipping along at a rapid pace, and avoids getting bogged down with lengthy exposition. He appears to assume that his readers will have at least a passing knowledge of the region where the book is primarily set and the key political and economic issues at play, and will not need everything explained to them in minute detail. The result is a book that doesn't insult its audience's intelligence and thankfully isn't the usual door-stop sized tome.
Based on this debut effort I will give the next Dan Maryland novel a shot. This felt fresh and he seems to have a good feel for how the 'great game' is played in the 21st Century. I'll look forward to seeing where he takes things next.
I had no problem picking this book up, getting into the plot, and staying engrossed every time I sat down to read it on the train to work. It's well written, researched fairly throughly, and no obvious plot holes mean that it's a solid read that you can't go wrong with.
The book is a jack of all trades and will probably be a 4 star book for most of the public. It doesn't quite have the edge that would give it 5 stars, and is fairly predictable but the characters are multi dimensional and I think it's well worth the money if you like a good spy / action adventure.
Mark is a retired CIA agent living in Azerbaijan and working as a lecturer. He becomes involved in the events surrounding the assassination of a local politician and the arrest of a current agent. Every bit of investigation which he undertakes reveals a bigger and more complex plot and eventually he and Daria are fleeing for their lives trying to work out who to trust.
This is a spy novel but it is not of the intricate and puzzling type so favoured by John le Carre. The plot is relatively straightforward and the book is written more in an action/thriller style. Although it is American and it involves the CIA it is not embarrassingly jingoistic. There is violence but it is not overwhelmingly gory and sex/romance is not a major theme in the book. The hero is a genuinely good guy who does his best to work out what is going on in an increasingly difficult situation. The description of the landscape and the country add an exotic element to the book - I am not aware that I have ever read a book set in Azerbaijan before !
I really enjoyed this book. I found it a fast paced action novel, easy to engage with and with a few twists to keep the reader slightly off balance. I thought the revelation of the "mistake" was well signposted and a little cheesy but on the whole this was a good read.