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Strong, Terence - 'Stalking Horse'
Paperback: 592 pages (Oct. 2009) Publisher: Pocket Books ISBN: 1847392687

This brilliant book by an author I've never come across before, was originally published in 1993. Max Avery, has been working under deep cover for the Provisional IRA for six years. He feels under a tremendous stress, pretending to be a villain and living a life of lies. He has had to lie to his partner, a woman who originally was an IRA sympathiser, and with whom he has had a child.

He has told his MI5 Controller that he wants to end his assignment and go abroad to start a new life away from the IRA. However, his Controller has other ideas as the world is on the brink of going to war with Sadam Hussein in the first Gulf War. The American and British Intelligence services want to confuse Iraq with a "stalking horse" strategy. They decide to entice Iraq with a plot of the IRA attacking Allied targets but the US doesn't have, they believe, any agents working with them but the British admit to having Max Avery.

Avery is convinced to keep up his pretence with the IRA but this is very difficult as the Provisional IRA are doing back ground checks on him and some facts about him are not very credible. The doubts surface and Max has a lot of explaining to do but eventually he manages to convince his Provisional IRA bosses that he is bona fide and the plot continues to its ultimate conclusion.

I found this novel really thrilling and this is the author's eight title of sixteen novels, many with a military flavour and Strong was the first author, ever, to go behind the scenes of the SAS. His first novel, WHISPER WHO DARES was written two years before the SAS stormed the Iranian Embassy in 1980, but put in a drawer in manuscript format until it was published to much public acclaim in 1982. It is still selling in its 18th edition.

His style has been compared to the very best of Wilbur Smith, Colin Forbes and Jack Higgins. He is an author who has the rare gift of managing to engage the attention of the reader from the first page and once you are committed to reading the book you are mesmerised by the story until the final page, a really gripping page turner. STALKING HORSE has everything, a really believable plot with a historical connection and authentic, plausible characters that have a real humanity to them. I am certainly going to look out for further books by this author.

Terry Halligan, England
January 2010

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 22/01/2010 21:21