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Dillon's 20th Appearance
on 2 September 2014
Jack Higgins is easily my favourite author, ever since reading The Eagle has Landed around ten years ago I have worked my way through his very impressive back catalogue, loving every book he has written. The fact that he is still writing thrillers of this calibre at the age of 85 is nothing short of amazing and something we should all be grateful for. But many things can only be deemed good or bad by comparison, and that is why I can only give this book 4 stars. Compared to other Thriller writers on the market today Higgins still remains at the forefront of the genre, with plots that are current, topical and could easily be set in any of the UK cities. It is this sense of realism that sets Higgins apart from his peers. However, compared to much of his earlier works this latest offering just doesn't stand up as well as I would have hoped. The Dillon series are becoming a little too formulaic for me, with the Prime Ministers secret army now featured in their 20th novel it almost seems as if the last 3 or 4 novels is a rehash of all that has gone before. We await the inevitable meals of Champagne and scrambled eggs, Roper sitting wide awake for the entire night with cigarettes and whiskey, Dillon and Sara taking a risk that will not sit well with Ferguson etc. While all this may be fresh for someone new to Higgins, for the seasoned fan it can become a little too repetitive. My only other issue with this book is that every character when they speak, their sentence is either preceded by the word 'said' or 'demanded', come on Higgins, mix it up a little. On one page I counted the word 'said' 8 times, maybe this is something his editor should have picked up on?
After that you may be thinking that I really didn't care for The Death Trade, but this is very far from the truth. The action was thick and fast and as usual there was a number of unexpected twists. Descriptions of scenes and characters were second to none and it was easy to imagine yourself in the middle of the gunfire. The plot centres around a nuclear scientist who is being held against his will and being made to focus his talents on making a new super bomb. Obviously a man with this talent is sought after the world over, so when he has a chance of escape who will recover him first? The UK, Iran or the dreaded Al Qaeda? In a race against time Dillon and co must travel as far afield as the Saudi Arabian desert whilst attempting to avoid the far reaching hand of the 'Master', an Al Qaeda controller. With Agents seemingly everywhere, this read will make you question even your friendly neighbourhood shopkeepers integrity.
All in all, still a very good book but in my opinion I would love Higgins to write a new story that did not involve the Prime Ministers secret army. He seems to have settled himself into a comfort zone (and at his age I can't really blame him) and is content to stay there. Even the ages of the main characters needs looking at, Dillon is now 62 and Ferguson must be knocking on 90... If Higgins is going to keep the series running, then how about allowing the next novel to just feature Sean Dillon, after all he was the main protagonist that attracted so many readers to Higgins way back in 1992 (Eye of the Storm). Unfortunately he seems to be given less and less of the limelight with each passing novel. I miss his Irish wit and deadly comments that were so much a part of the earlier works. In comparison to him many of the new additions just seem wooden (Gideon, Roper, Holley etc)
Maybe not the best place to start as an introduction to Higgins, my own favourite novel is A Prayer for the Dying, but not only a book for the completist either. Give it a try, you'll be glad you did.