More Basildon Bond than 007,
This review is from: The Stockholm Syndicate (Mass Market Paperback)
Raymond Harold Sawkins, an English novelist, was born in 1923. He wrote over 40 books, mostly as Colin Forbes - only three were published under is own name. He was best known for his recurring character Tweed, the Deputy Director of the Secret Intelligence Service. However, "The Stockholm Syndicate" - which was first published in 1981 - is one of his standalone novels. Sawkins died in 2006.
Jules Beaurain had once been a Chief Inspector in the Belgian police force, where he'd headed the anti-terrorist division. However, a year after his appontment, his wife was killed during a terrorist-inspired hijack in Athens airport. He promptly resigned his post and founded Telescope - an unofficial anti-terrorist organisation, but one that's extremely well-funded and highly effective. All of Telescope's agents have been hand-picked, all having suffered a similar loss to Beaurain himself. Jules - for purely professional reasons, obviously - works particularly closely with Louise Hamilton.
The book opens with Beaurain strolling through the grand Place in Brussels, expecting an attempt on his life. Unsurprisingly, the attempt on Beaurain's life fails...but only because Telescope's arch-enemies, the Syndicate, WANT it to fail. (While it's only a matter of time before the Syndicate makes a real move on Beaurain, for now they actually want their assassin - a Russian called Litov - to infiltrate Telescope. His mission is to find out where Telescope's headquarters are, allowing for a decisive attack on their mortal enemies). The Syndicate apparently has three leaders - Dr Otto Berlin, Dr Benny Horn and Dr Theodor Norling - though, ultimately, the trio report to the Kremlin. (Sonia Karnell appears to be the Syndicate's version of Louise Hamilton - she's with Berlin when he makes his first appearance, and she's never too far from the significant action). The organisation raises its funds through extortion and blackmail, and has an extensive list of the west's rich and influential people in its back pocket. As a result, a single code-word can make Beaurain's life very difficult. Both organisations are, obviously, very keen on the other's destruction...and, with Syndicate planning a major meeting, Telescope are aiming for a result within a fortnight.
I enjoyed "The Stockholm Syndicate" a great deal - though not for the reasons Forbes would have hoped. I actually feel a bit guilty for laughing so much...It's so old fashioned and over-the-top, it read more like a parody than a genuine thriller. Beaurain wears slacks, people seem to believe that a computer can find anything out and Europe apparently has "gangsters". (I thought they lived in 1920s Chicago ?) Like something out of Austin Powers, Otto Berlin at one point "used the fingers of one hand to stroke the curved ends of his moustache". Louise Hamilton, meanwhile, "had been a crack racing driver at Brands Hatch in England" who, during the course of the book, "felt besmirched by such vile obscenity" and found time to ask Beaurain "Will it be a savage encounter ?" Meanwhile, another Telescope agent comes up with a line guaranteed to generate nudges and sniggers : "You think I get a chance to use my weapon ?" An easy, diverting read - but not a book I could really take seriously.