The book lost it midway through but picked up towards the end. This book wasn't as enjoyable as previous ones, I wouldn't recognise it as a Frederick Forsyth novel. A shame as he is my favourite author.
Mr Forsythe is a writer for whom credibility is everything. That's actually a requirement of this genre. Or else you become James Bond, who is really superman in a tuxedo. To avoid this, people must be flawed, have limitations, and the restrictions that life puts on us such as rank, status, income, and intellect.
The Negotiator, Quinn, is a rare James Bond moment for FF. He isn't quite Bond or Superman, but he is enigmatic, maverick, individual, a Clint Eastwiood figure, a man with [one] name. Larger than life, he is somebody who operates outside the system. Forsythe makes him fallible, but his many virtues somehow overcompensate. But this is another belter of a novel.
He is a master plotter, FF. He isn't a psychologist. One sits on Quinn's shoulder, not inside his head. So the details, layered over and again, bring the credibility to an exciting plot which is a bit more colourful than his previous novels. It is the fine details that paint pictures [as any woman's magazine will reveal] and to use a poker analogy, it is not only the full house that Forsythe reveals, it is how he plays his hand that captivates. Several times, I thought, one could end this book here. But another card was dealt and the game went on.
There are a lot of supporting characters and you speculate about who is on the inside and who is on the outside. Be prepared to be teased.
There is a female character, which is unusual for Forsythe. He 'doesn't do' women - this character is sadly one-dimensional, and a plot device really, and women otherwise do not inhabit the literary terrain of his espionage horizons. This is simply how it is. I'd be surprised if FF's subsequent seven novels changed it substantially.
The Negotiator fully possesses all the gifts brought to bear on FF's five predecessor novels, but the character of Quinn makes it a touch more colourful than those, and just edges it into less credible, but no less enjoyable, waters. As a fun, exciting, compelling drama, it is loaded, however - and will stick to your palm like glue.
Frederick Forsyth is one of those authors I keep coming back to. His early novels remain his best ("Jackal" and "Odessa" in particular), but this one comes in close behind them. The kidnapping of the US president's son overlays a burgeoning crisis in fuel supplies on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Prominent Russian commanders and wealthy US oil traders are both trying to secretly force the hands of their governments towards seizing land in the Middle East. Onto the scene comes Quinn, a veteran soldier and ace hostage negotiator, charged with uncovering the hostage takers and returning the President's son to him. He has no idea just how far and how dark his journey will be before it's all over. This novel was written in the late 1980's, just as Gorbachev was making steps to reform his nation and end the Cold War. Ronald Reagan is not his counterpart, rather it is the fictional President Cormack, ensuring that there is no conjecture about the key figures in the drama. This time is long past, and yet it has echoes of the Allies' response to 9/11 and the protest chant "no blood for oil", which followed more than ten years later. The characters in the novel are well-developed, even if most of them are somewhat typical for this sort of fare. Quinn is the standout character; determined, mysterious, intelligent and very much his own man. Funnily enough the nastier characters are the ones who are most convincing, particularly an aged Texan oil mogul who claims his orders come from God and bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain Mr Ewing. Twists in the plot are Frederick Forsyth's trademark and in this novel there are several. The emotions are (mostly) believable and as is often the case in Forsyth's novels, the pace of events seems like an oncoming train wreck that it seems only a miracle can stop. But stop they do. I'm sure adventure and espionage fans will enjoy it, but it would be best to start with The Odessa File if you're new to Forsyth.
I was in the mood for a thriller and Forsyth definitely delivered -- I couldn't put it down.
Despite other reviewers' criticisms of the opening chapters, I liked all the detail about the various political environments and could see where the novel was heading. Then the middle section about the kidnapping just races along and I learned a lot about the art of negotiation. Very interesting!
The next section with the chase through the Low Countries stretches credibility as we are asked to believe that this multi-talented Green Beret is also a linguistic genius -- speaking several languages like a native, one of which he supposedly taught himself. I also wondered where all the money came from to finance this chase and indemnify all the abandoned rental cars!
Sadly, the female protagonist is totally one-dimensional. Without being sexist, I was mystified as to why the American "powers that be" thought it was a good idea to send along a female FBI agent as watchdog for Q. Why not just give him a male compadre? But then Q would not have had a female foil to play the part of evil seductress to entrap one of the bad guys. It was also disappointing to read that Sam, despite her wanna-be name, immediately falls in love with Q. and sleeps with him as soon as she can. Is it not possible for an author to let a woman professional keep her distance and just do her job? Isn't that being sexist? But then Q. would not have been able to get married and live happily ever after. These weaknesses in the plot and character development explain my 4-star rating.
The ending necessarily takes the form of an explanatory denouement unraveling all the remaining questions, but the sting in the tail seems justified.
Overall, a fluent story told in evocative detail. I liked it.
Quinn must be Forsyth's most o.t.t. hero. This good-looking former Green Beret isn't just a crack shot & explosives expert. He speaks French, German, Dutch and Spanish well enough to convince the natives that he's one of them. He's a master tactitian with a high IQ, a great detective and a master of disguise. He can pick locks and break into - and escape from - a property guarded by electrified fences, trigger-happy bodyguards and free-range Dobermans. Wow! Whadda hero! And he's the world's best hostage negotiator, too. Just a bit too much to be a believable hero.