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4.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 October 2007
I am aware that there are many excellent spy books, but in my modest opinion this is the one that describes the best this strange and dangerous universe that is secret war.

Frederick Forsyth wrote a couple of even better books ("The day of the Jackal", "The dogs of war") but they were not exactly about spying. In this book, written in the 80s, he describes a very clever and dangerous plot of KGB, which, if successful, could really break NATO and leave Western Europe vulnerable to a possible Soviet takeover. The description of Soviet inner circles of power are very good, much better that in the usual spy stuff - Frederick Forsyth was one of the few Cold War spy writers who had a really good understanding of USSR and it shows here. The story is very coherent, the plot is plausible and technically possible and its execution is described in incredibly professional way.

There are however other stories circling around the main plot which describe some of the horribly dirty tricks used by the intelligence communities all around the world (the story takes us from United Kingdom to Soviet Union and then to Africa, before coming back to UK). There are no superheroes in this book (although there are superlosers) and this is definitely not a James Bond movie material - there is however a masterly executed description of the gray, shadowy, dirty and smelly world, where virtually nothing is what it appears and every double bottom has a third bottom... I will absolutely not reveal anything about the plot, but prepare to be surprised. Many times. There are humouristic moments in this book, although this is a dark humour - there is much more tragic fragments, some of which can break the heart.

This is a dark, somber, rare and precious jewel, which didn't age at all since 80s. Excellent to read on holidays or on a rainy weekend. Once you finished it, a good idea could be to read some other early Forsyth books, like "The Day of the Jackal". If by any chance you saw already the movie, with Pierce Brosnan and Michael Caine, please be aware, that although a honest effort this film was only a shadow of this great book.
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on 24 July 2007
Wen I was young (20 years ago), my two favourite books were this one and Ludlum's Parsifal Mosaic. Hundreds of thrillers later, they remain in the top five. The 4th protocol contains lots of clever twists, it is much better than the (not bad) movie they made with Pierce Brosnan and Michael Caine out of it. It is probably dated now, cold war is over, but it still remains a top book for me. I shall re-read it someday. If you have never read it you should, Forsyth could write good stories at that time (now he has lost his edge but who does not age ?).
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on 10 February 2009
This book is set in Britain, South Africa and Russia in the 1980s. Unlike other agent stories, which I had tried in the past, the necessary background information for this intelligent plot is given in a compact way. Thus the book appears to be well researched and it is kept both exciting and understandable. Several story lines are intertwined in a neat way which helps to keep the suspense.

I had come upon this book after reading The Day of the Jackal (also by Forsyth) which I had experienced as similarly well researched and exciting. Thus this was my second book by Forsyth and I look forward to try out some more in the future.
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on 29 October 2000
This is a very entertaining novel. Forsyth appears to know his stuff about the British, American and Soviet secret services and in lots of ways the book as a "Bravo Two Zero" kind of 'handbook' appeal as the author describes in detail the workings and procedures of these government departments. I challenge anybody after reading the description of the Watchers (the secret service surveillance unit) to wonder for at least two weeks afterwards if they're being followed and watched.
The plot is also great with a steady pace and a controlled increase in velocity to the conclusion. It's all decidedly plausible and even the Soviets come out of the story rather human, unlike many inferior spy stories. However, it can be a rather clunky story -- you suspect where the story is heading and then are proved right a few pages later. It's like catching an accidental glimpse of back stage goings-on whilst watching a play - the spell is momentarily broken.
What's to criticise? Well, Forsyth has a laughably chauvanistic and perhaps simplistic approach to gender. There are few women in the novel and they appear merely to support the description of a man. And any men in the novel fall into one of two categories: weak or strong. If you're weak you betray your country. If you're strong you fight silently and thanklessly to preserve its way of life. Simple as that. No inbetweens and no shades of grey. (In some ways this is a touchingly 'old fashioned' view of life, however, that can be quite appealing).
But it's a fun book and definitely worth reading. Don't expect too much from it and you won't fail to enjoy it.
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on 13 September 2015
This is my second Forsyth book, after I read "Fist of Gd" (I am looking forward to "Jackal" and "Dogs") and it seems Forsyth wrote it with readers like me in mind. This one is much superior to "Fist". I rarely read fiction, generally much preferring books on history, particularly that of the 20th century, but Forsyth has written a very accessible novel that is almost frighteningly realistic. I very much appreciate all the research he has done, informing the reader on matters such as about how MI6 is structured and operates, how the SAS carries out operations, how surveillance is carried out on a suspect (a very tedious and expensive business!) and how security is maintained at the ports of entry of the country, how intelligence regarding national security is amassed and how the intelligence organs of hostile countries relate to one another.
Finally I can attest that he really does his homework as I have seen in his use of Hebrew words which are always transliterated and translated correctly
Highly recommended and don't let the fact that it deals with the Cold War and the late, unlamented Sovet and South African Apartheid regimes deter you!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 November 2013
I am aware that there are many excellent spy books, but in my modest opinion this is the one that describes the best this strange and dangerous universe that is secret war.

Frederick Forsyth wrote a couple of even better books ("The day of the Jackal", "The dogs of war") but they were not exactly about spying. In this book, written in the 80s, he describes a very clever and dangerous plot of KGB, which, if successful, could really break NATO and leave Western Europe vulnerable to a possible Soviet takeover. The description of Soviet inner circles of power are very good, much better that in the usual spy stuff - Frederick Forsyth was one of the few Cold War spy writers who had a really good understanding of USSR and it shows here. The story is very coherent, the plot is plausible and technically possible and its execution is described in incredibly professional way.

There are however other stories circling around the main plot which describe some of the horribly dirty tricks used by the intelligence communities all around the world (the story takes us from United Kingdom to Soviet Union and then to Africa, before coming back to UK). There are no superheroes in this book (although there are superlosers) and this is definitely not a James Bond movie material - there is however a masterly executed description of the gray, shadowy, dirty and smelly world, where virtually nothing is what it appears and every double bottom has a third bottom... I will absolutely not reveal anything about the plot, but prepare to be surprised. Many times. There are humouristic moments in this book, although this is a dark humour - there is much more tragic fragments, some of which can break the heart.

This is a dark, somber, rare and precious jewel, which didn't age at all since 80s. Excellent to read on holidays or on a rainy weekend. Once you finished it, a good idea could be to read some other early Forsyth books, like "The Day of the Jackal". If by any chance you saw already the movie, with Pierce Brosnan and Michael Caine, please be aware, that although a honest effort this film was only a shadow of this great book.
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on 26 August 2007
I first read this book about 20 years ago, and since then have not only reread this countless times, but have read all of Forsyth's work. They are all excellent reads, and far above the commercialiastic commonplace crud of other more "popular" writers. There is a sense of timelessness in his writings that transports you across continents and eras! Beautiful and enthralling!
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on 7 May 2016
A classic Frederick Forsyth. The man is a master in creating exciting thrillers. he shows his skills as a journalist. It's a book you want to read in one go and gives you a glimpse how easy it looks to build an atomic bomb from scratch.
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VINE VOICEon 17 January 2014
Frederick Forsyth gives us a fast-paced thriller with a credible plot (for the 1980's). As usual he writes in a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact style, which doesn't offer any character development or emotional involvement, but the story is superior to many in this genre.

With the benefit of 25 years hindsight large elements of the plot are far-fetched (and reveal Mr Forsyth's right-wing tendencies). I don't believe for a moment that the British people would tolerate a Marxist government, but I do remember the fetid atmosphere of the mid 1980's, and it would have felt more credible then. I notice also that there are virtually no female characters in the book and a few vaguely sexist comments in there.

The story does run out of steam a bit in the final quarter - the plot is revealed: it's just a matter of chasing down the agents before they can unleash hell. For me this lacks tension, but the book is an enjoyable train/ airport read which passes the time well.
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on 10 November 2015
In common with all Frederick Forsyth's books that I have recently started to read they are slow to build up and set the scene of the intricate plots, but once done they are books which you cannot put down. The Fourth Protocol is no different. A cracking plot, incredibly well researched, and a brilliant read
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