I adore the city of New York, and will read any piece of fiction set there. The city is almost alive, and I relish seeing its mute, brooding presence in thrillers. That's basically why I picked this book, as I am not a fan of modern thrillers. I appreciate the classics (Fleming, Deighton, Forsyth, even Clancy) and some modern junk that borders on sci-fi (Matthew Reilly ia a guilty pleasure, for example), but most modern thrillers are far too samey and fit one of three templates: the historical-conspiracy (Dan Brown et al, ad nauseum), the (yawn) police procedural, or the Bourne/24 wannabes.
This is a curious one, though. Andrew Grant is the brother of the famous thriller writer Lee Child - I've read a couple of his books, and they were good but I didn't feel I had to rush out and devour more. When I read the synopsis, I was expecting something similar to those, but with perhaps a dash of the Bournes about it. Nearly right. But instead of aping Bourne, it apes "24" instead - in both good and bad ways.
The writing is good - crisp dialogue, neat descriptions. Characterisation is a little lacking, though - I have no idea what David Trevelyan looks like - but then perhaps that's the point. The first-person perspective is interesting, and the clipped sentences give a real feel of David's structured and highly-trained life. The - relatively few - action scenes are kinetic and well-written, and the background research is obviously extensive.
The plot and the pacing of the novel are the problem areas. As the story unfolds, it really started to remind me of the way the TV show "24" is structured - the initial burst following one plot thread (the opening two or three chapters of the book are excellent, and a perfect example of have to pull a reader in), which seems to be wrapped up far too quickly. Another different plot then looms, totally unconnected to the first. At the end of the novel, though, it seems it was all connected after all - although I have to admit I was a little confused over the details (POSIBLE SPOILERS: Who is Lesley, and what exactly does her group exist for? She just seemed to be a sadistic villain for the sake of it. And I'm a little lost over the whole tramps/railroads/fake ID's/Iraq part of the plot). It reminded me of the last couple of (not as good) seasons of Jack Bauer's exploits, where the writers come up with a cracking eight-episode story but then realise that they have to pad it out to 24 episodes. It all gets stretched a little thin, with lots of coincidences and meetings and weak sub-plots. The end then feels rushed - the main villain's motivation is weak and sketchy, and David saves the day by...shooting a laptop. Followed by the coda, which brings back a forgotten and pointless character from earlier in the story (just like "24") and sets up the sequel.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book - it was fast-paced and entertaining, and it's good to have a Brit abroad as the hero - even if his background is pure Bond and he is as indestructible and infallible as...well, Bond I suppose! I will certainly pick up Andrew Grant's next book to see how he develops as a writer (this is his first novel). It's certainly better than the vast slew of post-Dan Brown conspiracy thrillers (and, actually, better than Dan Brown - heresy!).