Cold Blood Hardcover – 5 Mar 2009
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Extraordinary use of plot and pace and language...this is a thriller, no bones about it. For anyone who feels that there aren't enough armoured trains in today's popular fiction, or enough murderous White Russians with God and destiny on their side - and I am one - this book is a must (Giles Whittell The Times)
'This is as much tongue-in-cheek historical romp as page-turning cliffhanger. Relentless energy and garrulous black humour.'
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Now that is a good mix!
In the tradition of Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, Jr., an academic turned action hero, we have here in COLD BLOOD Charlie Doig, a 28-year old half-Russian half-Scottish naturalist and minor nobleman caught up in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and th Russian Civil War, the Reds versus the Whites. After his beautiful new wife is raped, tortured and left for her husband to shoot to put out of her misery, Doig vows vengeance on the rapist, Prokhor Glebov, the number three man in the Revolution behind Lenin and Trotsky. Charlie gathers around himself a motley group of survivors, adventurers, American spies, and misfits, hijacks an armored train, and sets off to run down Glebov. Along the way, he's recruited into a plot to capture a chunk of the deposed tsar's gold reserves, which are on the loose and the object of opposing armies.
With a plot like this, what could go wrong?
I finished COLD BLOOD with a keen sense of unfullfillment. First off, author James Fleming fails to explain conceptually or describe in any detail the execution of the scheme to heist that specific portion of the gold horde that Doig eventually targets but which is under close guard by the Whites. What could've provided some riveting moments for the reader doesn't.
For me, the book's greatest failing lies in the nature of the hero, Charlie Doig, who's apparently driven solely by his desire for vengeance on Glebov. Mind you, I have nothing against revenge as a great motivator. But, in a literary action hero, I expect some structural underpinning to the character - some standard of conduct - that causes me to at least like, if not admire, the protagonist. Indeed, in COLD BLOOD the intensity of my dislike for Glebov far outweighed the passion of my positive feelings for Doig. While most of the killing that Charlie considers necessary he has done by his faithful Mongolian sidekick, Kobi, Doig isn't above personally murdering innocents. I mean, Lee Child's hero, Jack Reacher, or that of Stephen Leather, Dan "Spider" Shepherd - two of my favorites - would never stoop so low.
Despite a nifty plot twist near the end which I didn't see coming, I can't, because of the reasons given, award more than three stars. Too bad, because COLD BLOOD had the potential to be a first-rate thriller.
I think the train helps to guide us along ,as in my other favourite of his "Thomas Gage". All the kinks from "White Blood" have been well ironed out in this masterpiece.
It is a masculine voice, very physical , then suddenly he suprises us with traces of sensitivity amongst the carnage.
Some extacts will haunt forever ,the cart full of dead Red's and the sudden arising to life of one and his subsequent fate is horrific to an extreme. The language as usual with Fleming is inspired and he has learned to curb the baroque excess's which previously hindered the narrative. The return of Glebov as a key figure in the Revolution is beautifully managed. His faint taunting morse signals picked up in the
armoured train while it plunges through the wild snow bound forests conjures up a vision of submarines seeking out mutual destruction.
Doig will also find a new lover, an earthy intensly sexual creature his equal in physical carnality.
There are many twists and suprises in store here for the reader and most importantly a narrative that transports you with addictive pleasure into Flemings realm. I read it in one joyous blast!
He appears to rush from one idea to another.
I liked the twist at the end but Doig was nowhere near perfect himself
Beautifully written, shocking yet sensitive, and an absolute classic in the making.
The Times said 'this book is a must' and I agree. An original and vibrant style of writing particulary in its fascinating detail. I do like a book with pace and this fairly skips along but somehow lingers where required and delves into the history in a way that made me feel ' I was there...I saw that'.