I’ve read and enjoyed the excellent historical Kingsbridge series by Ken Follett but have never read one of his contemporary thrillers. Never, his latest, is a fast-moving story that, despite being a hefty 832 pages, I read hungrily. International politics, terrorism, drug smuggling form an unstoppable chain of events that move the world, inch by inch, to the edge of horrifying conflict. This is the content of so many dramatic films and books and is the basis for Follett’s story. He makes it powerful by letting the events unfold through the eyes of five people in different countries, each involved in local matters with far-reaching implications. As events spiral, I didn’t want to put the book down. It’s an uncomfortable read, the sensible cautious voices are at times shouted down by the brashest, loudest hard-liners and, like all the best thrillers, it makes you think ‘could this happen’ and ‘what would I do.’
Follett’s narrative is premised on how events unfolded prior to the First World War when a chain of seemingly small things culminated in a global conflict. Never starts in Northern Africa. Abdul works undercover, tracking cocaine shipments used to fund IS’s operations in the region. Tamara Levit works for the CIA in Chad where climate change is edging the rural population closer to starvation, forcing many to trek north to Europe in search of a better life. Border conflict with neighbouring Sudan is a daily threat. Chad’s president is an unpredictable dictator and terrorists are using North Korean and Chinese weapons.
In China, the government is polarising. Chang Kai is 45 and vice-president for international intelligence. He is communist royalty. His father is one of the Chinese old guard, a political hardliner, a traditionalist, but Kai is new generation Chinese. He studied at Princeton and is married to a television actress. President Chen is talked at by both sides. Prior to his election he had the ear of the traditionalists but since has taken moderate decisions. Now the North Korean neighbours are causing trouble. When there are problems in the north, it inevitably draws in not only South Korea but also the Americans and Japanese. In America, President Green is dealing with a truculent teenage daughter, an unhappy husband, and a populist challenger who fills the airwaves with dangerous rhetoric.
This is a scary thriller that makes you gobble up the pages without realising. The story is wide-ranging and is better for it. Well researched and expertly paced. The early chapters are slower as characters and situations are introduced and explored, then as the political tensions and dangers increase the story pace picks up. The ending comes in a rush but that is what happens when communications are down and control is lost.
It leaves you asking, ‘what if.’
CLICK THE TITLE TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
Click the titles to read my reviews of other Follett novels:-
THE EVENING AND THE MORNING [Kingsbridge prequel]
THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH [#1 Kingsbridge]
If you like this, try:-
‘Exposure’ by Helen Dunmore
‘The Travelers’ by Chris Pavone
‘Last Light’ by Alex Scarrow
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