An imaginative thriller

When President Obama showed a select audience an ongoing closed circuit television mission that killed the most wanted man in the world enjoying sanctuary in Pakistan, he emphasized that locating and taking out the notorious Muslim terrorist by the US elite SEALs was a wholly American undertaking. It will certainly earn him votes at the next election.

False Friends by Stephen Leather 453 pp, 2012 Hodder Stoughton paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 650 baht.

In his work of fiction, False Friends, popular Irish-born author offers another scenario. That it was the British who learned where Osama bin Loony was ensconced under the protection of Islamabad's government, passed the information across the pond, and the White House took it from there.

How did London learn the secret? Two 20ish Pakistani-British jihadists, Chaudry and Malik, had been invited to meet The Sheik (Osama) to be praised as freedom fighters. Though trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two friends chose to forgo violence for peaceful careers.

The $25 million bounty on the planner of 9/11 loosened their tongues to MI5. The reason the UK's elite SAS is not given the mission is unconvincing. So two teams of Navy SEALs get the go-ahead, with one member of MI5 along as an observer.

Enter Dan "Spider" Shepherd, the author's literary creation. The SEALs prove to be bumblers, loud-mouths, trigger-happy. Shepherd's unsolicited advice, invariably good raises their danger. He thought that Osama would only be abducted. He is horrified when one of the wives is wounded.

The plot expands to include two Brits trying to bring crates of AK47s into their country, Muslim terrorists planning to kill thousands and al-Qaeda enforcers tracking down The Sheik's betrayers. Lots of fights on land and sea (the Channel). Bodies pile up. A leading character is tortured.

Pakistan gets marginally less bashing than America. The UK has its share of thugs and extremists, but on the whole is a great place to love. Stephen Leather is entitled to his opinions, but denigrating the the ability of the US special forces is uncalled for. They are at least a match for the UK's equivalent.

That said, False Friends is an imaginative thriller. A frequent visitor to the Land of Smiles, though not an Old Thailand Hand, it is no exaggeration to say that he is better known internationally than those who are.

Cross Fire by James Patterson 452 pp, 2011 Arrow paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 350 baht.

 Acrime treasure chest

It was said during the silent film era that they were being turned out like cars on an assembly line to fill the theatres. Until it was pointed out that Ford's Model-Ts were identical while each Hollywood product was different. Which also applies to the novels of James Patterson, penned by him alone or with a co-author.

It never ceases to amaze me how many books he turns out. And to his credit, good quality reading matter. Specialising in crime thrillers, his literary creations include several sleuths. Of them, the most popular is homicide detective Alex Cross of Washington DC's Metropolitan Police Department.

Much is made of Cross's personal life _ a single father, a daughter, a son, an adopted son, a nanny in her 90s, a fiancee (Bree, short for Brianna). His arrest record is exemplar and made him many enemies. The worst is Kyle Craig, a sociopath who calls himself the Mastermind. An evil genius he is, too.

The author stretches things a bit when Kyle breaks out of the prison for the criminal insane, kidnaps FBI special agent Max Siegel, kills him, has a cosmetic surgeon in Cuba change his features then impersonates him. Like everyone else, Cross who works with him from time to time is fooled.

Cross takes time out from planning for his nuptials to work on a case. Two snipers _ a sniper and a spotter _ are killing corrupt politicians, bankers, lobbyists, foul-mouths, druggies. Innocent people, too. The media are sent boastful messages, signed The Patriot.

Suspense for the police and the FBI, but not for the readers who are told who is who early on. What we are meant to get excited about is what Cross will do when Kyle makes his move during the honeymoon in Nassau in the Bahamas. Patterson is noted for having over 100 chapters in each of his works of fiction. Cross Fire has 117 in its 452 pages.

The climax, in which the villain in a number of the author's books in burned to a char will raise eyebrows. As in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series, the public wanted neither the sleuth nor his nemesis to die.

Don't be surprised if and when Kyle Craig subsequently reappears.

I think that even were I to review a James Patterson story a month, I would still fall behind the number being published. More power to him.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer