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Smith, Mackenzie - 'Who Pays the Piper'
Paperback: 464 pages (Sep. 2012) Publisher: Arrow ISBN: 0099576767

In 1999, members of Sierra Leone's feared and murderous militia, known as "Wide Side Boys" (WSB), were holding hostage, members of a captured patrol from the Royal Irish Regiment of British soldiers plus their local Sierra Leone liaison officer. Negotiators had succeeded in securing the freedom of five Britons. However, the British authorities have decided to effect a rescue of the remaining men using 'D' Squadron of the SAS Regiment, but before they send in the main group, they have despatched an advance four-man party, into position ready to call in the main strike force at a moment's notice. So Captain Christian McKie and three of his men watch and wait, hidden within metres of over 200 heavily armed militia fighters.

The strike is called "Operation Barras" and when all the 'D' Squadron of the SAS Regiment finally arrive, absolute bedlam breaks out and much blood is shed. Christian is fighting in the thick of it, when he notices that Andy, one of his fellow soldiers is overrun by the enemy and is hacked to death by the machetes of the WSB. Christian cannot understand this, as he shoots the killers of Andy, for he thought that the three men who accompanied him in the advance party should have provided backup. Soon he is horrified when he realises that the three have another purpose in mind, which is torturing a leader of the Wide Side Boys, in his hut, to make him reveal where he has hidden a cache of alluvial diamonds. Christian interrupts them in the process of this and Sam the leader orders the other two soldiers to leave the building they're in and then he ruthlessly shoots Christian. Christian falls to the floor and some masonry falls on him. Sam believes he has killed Christian and then he and all of the remaining other SAS soldiers take their helicopters and leave the area. Back in the Hereford, base of the regiment the squadron are debriefed and funerals are held for the men that unfortunately did not return.

Christian, badly wounded in the shoulder, recovers slowly in the captivity of the Wide Side Boys, who have moved him to another location. He vows revenge on Sam and the other men who betrayed him. His captors want to use his status as an SAS officer, for their own ends. However, back home his commanding officer hears from GCHQ, that they believe from the various satellite messages that they have intercepted, that a high profile hostage is being held in a training camp in the region. He is not satisfied with the debrief responses that he received from the three men who went in with Christian, so he interviews them all again individually. Sam the shooter, who is the most senior is sent away on a two-week training course. The remaining two, Jamie and Tim, have very bad consciences about the matter and decide to get all the guns and equipment they will need and then take some urgent leave, but in reality get themselves flown near the bases where Christian is believed to be. After much searching and a lot of patrolling back and forwards across the deserts, using their satellite navigation systems they locate the camp they believe Christian is located and surreptitiously make contact. They, then advise their commanding officer by satellite telephone and their mission is formalised and extra forces are sent in, but they won't arrive for perhaps six hours.

The Wide Side Boys, decide to kill Christian in the most terrible way. Jamie and Tim, observing with binoculars, need to decide how they can save him and the consequences of this decision has some far reaching effects and how Christian gets his revenge on Sam makes for a very unpredictable and enjoyable read. This book by this new writer is based on actual events and is expertly researched and I could find very little fault with his fine narrative skills. He has trained with the SAS Regiment apart from doing many other adventurous activities. In this wonderfully imaginative story, this new and highly talented author takes the reader on an unforgettable journey. I was thoroughly mesmerised by the unbelievably gritty authenticity of the story which kept me guessing (wrongly) until the very surprising conclusion. I hope that the author writes many more books of this highly gripping quality and that I get the opportunity to review them. Very well recommended.

Terry Halligan, England
September 2012

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last updated 30/09/2012 09:56