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on 18 August 2011
Whilst reading this I was reminded of one of Gerald Seymour's earlier books about a sniper, I think it was AT CLOSE QUARTERS. In that the main character spends a lot of time lying around waiting to take impossible shots at middle-eastern targets, as snipers do. Even though in this book the main characters are policeman gathering intelligence. The reason is that there is a lot of time spent on concealed positions in the stifling heat etc, which allows for some great description and time to get to know the characters and their surroundings, but slows the pace down dramatically. The description is great though and I was definitely transported from one country to another, I would just like to have seen a little less of that and a little more action. I also found the author pushing his moral high-ground on the reader a little offensive in places. I prefer to make up my own mind.

As usual the story is a good one about an attempt to assassinate the man behind producing bombs being used against American and British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The plot is made believable through Seymour's impeccable research into the military and espionage communities, which is shown in the great detail. If you are a fan of other Seymour books then you will definitely enjoy this one as it follows the same basic formula and is as good as any of his other works.

Although DENIABLE DEATH has its flaws, it is definitely a well written thriller, a fulfilling read, and one that I would happily recommend!
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on 3 December 2011
If you enjoy Gerald Seymour's particular writing style and story lines then you should thoroughly enjoy this book.
His characters' various experiences of isolation, self doubt, heroism, despair, frailty, moral dilemma and bureaucratic manipulation in the face of extreme trial again translate into a very good novel.
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on 15 August 2012
I was disappointed in this book, probably because I thought it was a thriller: it is not. As far as I can tell, it seems to be about two ex-coppers lying in a hide somewhere in Iraq (or is it Iran - I rather lost track) for days on end, just getting on each other's wick. It might have had an exciting end, I don't know, I didn't get that far.

I gave up because the idiosyncratic style of writing just wore me out. A long time ago I was taught that ending sentences with ellipses (...) is sloppy writing. After much over-use it irritated me ... In many places, the writing is quasi-poetic, the narrator distant, the effect fuzzy - and then you realise that something might have happened, so you read it again. Then there are scenes where you haven't a clue which characters are involved, because you only get the personal pronoun (which can refer variously to more than one character in the scene) - so you read it again. And then there is a massive amount of back-story or excess detail, usually crowbarred early on in a scene - so you forget what the scene was really about; you read it again. (Good value for money: you are forced to read the book twice!)

Many scenes are written in the pluperfect: `Foxy had done this, Badger had done that', or in the subjunctive: `this would happen, that might happen'. No immediacy or pace there, then. And the characters were droll, unconvincing stereotypes. The Major, for example, waxed lyrical in his briefing until Gibbons told him to shut up and sit down (even the author seems to have realised he was droning on!). I'm sure that officers have verbosity beaten out of them before they leave Sandhurst.

By the time I gave up on it, I felt I was watching everything - the huge cast of characters, the events - from the wrong end of an out-of-focus telescope. The story could have been told, far more effectively, in half the number of words.

If you like semi-literary books in a thriller-type setting, you might enjoy this (and many people seem to have done). If you like good access to interesting characters and their story, then this is probably not for you.

PS - the author missed a real trick: Naghmeh should have been sent to the Great Satan for treatment!
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on 30 December 2011
It is perhaps axiomatic to say that a thriller requires some suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader in order for it to work - we allow ourselves to be swept along by plot and characters in what we hope will be a thrilling read.

But with this book Seymour has taken the requirement for suspending a little our natural sense of disbelief to a point where one begins to feel insulted. Perhaps I can illustrate this with just a few simple questions.

If you discovered the identity and location in Iran of a bomb maker responsible for killing many of your troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan would you (a) arrange to have him taken out or (b) insert two covert surveillance operatives in the hope that they will overhear - from a considerable distance - a conversation which will enable them to identify which country the bomb maker might be about to travel to, in order to have him taken out there?

If you were stupid enough to choose (b) would you then insert (a) two members of a Special Forces team dedicated to such tasks or (b) two policemen?

Let's imagine you're stupid enough to have selected the second option again. Would you choose people (a) fluent in the local language or (b) in one case unable to speak or understand anything in Farsi and in the other only able to understand fragments of classical Farsi (i.e not the colloquial form spoken by most Iranians)?

I could go on like this but I think you get the point. The plot is so ridiculous it is hard to derive any pleasure from seeing it unfold. It is also, as others have pointed out, almost unbearably dull. And the characters are cut from cardboard (the American, the Israeli, the British army officer ...) everyone conforms to the stereotype as if amateur actors had been handed the role ten minutes previously and told to `ham it up, old boy'.

I'll end with what may seem a small point but which I think is significant. The classical Farsi speaking policeman, we are told a number of times, was attached to an army interrogation unit in Iraq, helping interrogate Iraqi prisoners. Which must have been interesting, because Iraqis speak Arabic and very, very few speak any Farsi. Perhaps he baffled them by asking lots of tricky questions in a language they did not understand while a colleague hit them with a plank of wood, a sort of Monty Python approach to interrogation techniques. The significance in this is that it is almost certainly not a mistake by Seymour, as he must know this very well. The point is, he hopes that you, the reader, the person who just stuck another £5 note in his pocket, will not. Now that really is insulting.
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VINE VOICEon 27 July 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you have never read a Gerald Seymour book before, you may want to give this book 4 stars. If you have read most of them you might want to give it 2! The bottom line is that Seymour could not write a bad book if he tried. He is a master of planning, plotting and tension. His characters are well-drawn, with just enough depth to do the stuff. However:- These characters seem to be the same old stock characters every time, just moved around in their roles. This is formula fiction, when all is said and done.

Seymour always likes the illusion of being bang up to date. He is also good at packaging 'toys for the boys' info. This is after all a male read! In this his main competitor would be Frederick Forsyth The Day Of The Jackal. The various lectures for the operatives/you and me on IEDs immediately made me realise how inaccurate a film like the 'Hurt Locker' The Hurt Locker [DVD]is. In that film a bomb is really no more than a cartoon box with a clock and a tick tock noise - just done with a modern gloss. Gerald Seymour helps the reader understand that these are technical wonders, able to slip under highly sophisticated counter-measures. If it was an essay on IEDs I would give it 5 stars for accessibility. But it's not - it's a thriller.

Thrilling? - mildly. Tense? - a bit. Annoying? - very much so. You will want to kick most people up the arse before the end. This is part of the formula. Ever since 'Harry's Game'Harry's Game, Seymour has portrayed all 'handlers' of agents as inadequates or bullies, all bosses as both AND bastards too. There is always a young idealist/fool somewhere in the mix, and an old dog too - in this case even called Foxy! 'Foxy and Badger go to Iran' would be an alternative title. Their love hate relationship whilst pinned to an observation post 2 kilometres the wrong side of the Iranian border is done pretty well - other than the fact it just copies all the other similar relationships in most of his other books.(i.e. it is portrayed as hate/hate!)

I used to collect Gerald Seymour thrillers in his heyday. I won't keep this one. Having said that he has not sunk to the depths of Le CarreCall for the Dead. Good for the airport, beach or train.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Spy or military intelligence stories have a number of common themes. "A Deniable Death" belongs to the detailed procedural school as practised by Frederick Forsyth. Gerald Seymour's novel about the plot to assassinate a "bomb-maker" is firmly set in the mundane and the detailed. This is the world George Smiley would recognise as a host of men and women come together to kill or to protect the target. An important part of the process is that of the observers who lie in their hides like deer hunters watching their prey and extracting detail. This is the longest part of the book and it conveys admirably (if not always enjoyably) the stilly watches of the night (and day). This is not The Bourne Assassination, nor is it James Bond, but rather they are warriors for the working day. The sheer stultifying unpleasantness of what they have to do is brought home in great detail.
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VINE VOICEon 25 May 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Two stars for the latest novel by an admired author requires explanation.

Strangely, this doesn't seem a reader-friendly book. The frequent changes of focus - location, personnel - are disconcerting and impede narrative pace. The identification of characters lurches towards caricature: In the first fifty pages we encounter The Engineer, Echo Foxtrot - the Eternal Flame, Foxy, Badger, the Cousin, the Friend, the Jones Boys, Shagger, Hamfist, Corky and Harding. Most of these have real names, too, prompting turning back to re-read and remember.

Then there is the device of starting a new section with an unidentified pronoun: "He had never spoken to Echo Foxtrot ...", "He was a star ...", "In his experience ...", "He touched her hand ...", etc. Is this the same "he" from the immediately preceding section? Sometime it is, sometimes it is another "he." As a means of inviting the reader to continue it is at first confusing, then simply irritating.

And there is the research, a Gerald Seymour given. Often it can convey authenticity, but sometimes it simply seems like unnecessary padding: "Mansoor's wife worked as a typist for the intelligence officer in the Guard Corps barracks, the Crate Camp Garrison off the Ahvaz to Mahshar road ..." The first ten words there feel important, the last ten feel like showing off the homework. Again: "He was married to Lilli, who had been a theatre nurse at the Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf ..." No doubt such an establishment exists but is the title relevant or simply there to impress?

Pressing on through the pages comes to seem as challenging as the gruelling surveillance marathon undertaken by the covert observation specialists charged with bringing about this Deniable Death.
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on 8 October 2012
Two English surveillance experts sneak across the Iraq/Iran border to spy on an Iranian known as the Engineer who is constantly improving the technology of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) which terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan are using to such lethal effect against the vehicles and troops of the Western powers.

51-year-old 'Foxy' is a career soldier, 28-year-old 'Badger' is a policeman. Dug into a sandbar in the marshes, they do not bond as they watch and listen to conversations 100 metres away. The Engineer's wife has a brain tumour and is to be sent abroad for surgery that may save her life. The two spies need to hear where she is to be sent so that Western Intelligence services can arrange for her husband to be assassinated.

It's a long harsh week for the two men on the sandbar. Seymour makes you feel every squelch of the mud, every insect bite. Not since Hammond Innes have I read a novel which brings its environment to such acutely vivid life. We come to know these two men better than their womenfolk do; we also come to know the bureaucrats from London, Washington and Tel Aviv who have sent them to this Godforsaken location and the small platoon that is waiting to extricate them if and when their mission is accomplished. Despite the terrible devices he manufactures, we also come to feel a certain empathy for the Engineer, desperately worried about his ailing wife, and for the war-wounded soldier in charge of their security.

The climax of the book, as one of the spies drags the other out of the marshes against the clock, is nerve-shredding. Gerald Seymour is arguably a better writer of 'literary' thrillers than even John Le Carre. A DENIABLE DEATH is the best thriller I've read in the last five years or more.

[Reviewer is the author of THE DROPOUT]
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ordered this for my husband, it looks right up his street. He's been engrossed in it now for four days. He says that he's never read a Gerald Seymour novel before but he will read more. Apparently it's well written and full of suspense. Although it does stretch credibility when you have two police offices involved in a covert mission to infiltrate Iran to spy on a bomb maker.
That being said he did enjoy it and what's more to the point I had peace and quiet for a couple of days!
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on 4 December 2016
This very tightly written novel opens with a long, but very respectful, description of a typical sad funeral procession through Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, reference is also made to the hundreds of service personnel returning from armed combat in Afghanistan and also Iraq who have unfortunately lost limbs as the result of road side bombs. MI6 have identified an engineer employed by Iran who spends all of his time designing and manufacturing improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.s) which have caused up to 66% of all coalition forces casualties since 2001 to the present day. MI6 detail one of their senior personnel to take charge of organising a plot to kill the person concerned. Len Gibbons, the MI6 nominee, arranges to contact self employed contractors as their status can be denied by the SIS should the contractor be captured.

This highly detailed plot is softened by the humanity of the authors understanding that regardless of the occupation of the subject there is always a background to every person. No matter how humble or exalted they may be. A lot of the focus of the book is spent on two 'Watchers', Badger and Foxy, deep undercover in Iran living for many days in a dugout in very unpleasant weather conditions of extreme heat. Their target is under microphone and binocular night sight 24 hrs a day.As they have come a long distance overland, to their vantage point all their food and water rations is contained in two ruck sacks. They cannot leave any indication that they were ever there, so everything they eat or drink and all their toilet deposits have to be removed in the water bottles or diapers. So we get to hear of one characters marital difficulties and the others loneliness and interest in wildlife.

On the advance reading copy I used, there is a statement, "You watch, You wait, The hours slide slowly past. You've been there a whole day, Then two, You lie under a merciless sun, in a mosquito-infested marsh. You can't move, leave or relax, You're stuck next to a man you despise. If they find you, you will be left to face torture and death". The picture this paints, so vividly is of a job that must be done by our armed forces that is very hard and you just have to admire their fortitude and bravery in these adverse conditions.

This multi faceted story keeps switching from the back story of the watchers, to their support network in Afghanistan, to MI6 in London and also the American and kindred security connections and my attention in the 448 pages did not flag at all.

We also hear about the back story of the MI6 organiser and why his own life has not been so successful. The target, i.e. the Iranian Engineer who builds the I.E.D.s we learn has a very sick wife who is suffering from a brain tumour that will need an operation soon to remove it or she may die. The date and location of the hospital that the wife of the Engineer is going to go to is so crucial and is what the watchers hope to identify. The novel is very powerful and kept me gripped until the final page.

This novel is completely different to all the others that I have read by this very experienced author as they all are written with different themes and characters, which is one of the factors that makes him such an exciting writer. He is also from a journalistic background (fifteen years as an international reporter with ITN) and meticulously researches the background to all his books and it is very reassuring, reading facts and background details in his stories and knowing that they must be authentic because he has such a good reputation. Gerald Seymour has been a full-time writer since 1978. Deniable Death is his twenty-eighth novel. I hope he writes many more and that I get the chance to read them all.. You just have to read this novel as it is absolutely gripping. More like this please.
Complimentary copy provided by netgalley.com for honest review.
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