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Cain, Tom - 'Dictator'
Paperback: 496 pages (July 2011) Publisher: Corgi ISBN: 0552161462

Samuel Carver is a former Special Boat Service operative, assassin and mercenary. DICTATOR is the fourth of his adventures, which began in 2008 with THE ACCIDENT MAN, and looks set to continue, with CARVER out in hardback this year.

The story begins ten years in the past with Carver looking for a purpose in life to drag him out of a depression, something that requires 'his particular, very deadly skills'. He finds one when he is hired by Klerk, a wealthy, white, African-in-exile, to rescue his niece Zalika. She has been kidnapped by the forces of the Malemban dictator Henderson Gushungo. Negotiations are going nowhere and it is time for direct action.

Zalika's rescue sows the seeds for part two, introducing Carver's client, his target, his allies and opponents, and the romantic interest. The action is tense and well written, and probably the best sequence in the book. There is plenty for hardware junkies, including a handy shopping list if you're ever planning an extraction of your own: an 'MP5 submachine gun, fitted with a noise suppressor... a knife, three grenades ... two fifteen-round magazines, a powerful torch, an emergency flare, some nylon fishing wire and a basic first aid kit.' And Carver uses all of it.

Part two sees Klerk summoning Carver again, this time with a more ambitious mission to kill the now very elderly Henderson Gushungo in his Hong Kong hideaway. There is an interesting question at the core of the part two. Can the taking of one life save millions of others? Will Carver, in his role as a principled hitman, take the job of killing an evil African dictator (and accept payment for it), or should he let nature take its course?

Does the blurb comparing Carver with Bond and Bourne hold water? Carver's character is certainly cut from the same cloth a 'combination of toughness, competence and relentless determination'. His entirely unprofessional interaction with his female partner is reminiscent of Bond (although Carver is not as caddish), as is the shifting of scene from Switzerland to Malemba, to a country house in Suffolk, to Hong Kong and finally back to Malemba. There is even a bewilderingly lengthy clay pigeon shoot in the middle of the book, a homage to the golf match in Goldfinger.

At almost 500 pages DICTATOR is an ideal holiday novel for a thriller fan, with a hard-as-nails protagonist, satisfyingly gritty action sequences, beautiful women and a collection of very nasty baddies.

Rich Westwood, England
October 2011

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 13/10/2011 16:05