Tag Archives: spy

Paul Fraser Collard: Devil’s Assassin (Review)

Paul Fraser Collard's picture

Paul’s love of military history started at an early age. A childhood spent watching films like Waterloo and Zulu whilst reading Sharpe, Flashman and the occasional Commando comic, gave him a desire to know more of the men who fought in the great wars of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. At school, Paul was determined to become an officer in the British army and he succeeded in wining an Army Scholarship. However, Paul chose to give up his boyhood ambition and instead went into the finance industry. Paul stills works in the City, and lives with his wife and three children in Kent.

Devil’s Assassin

The bold hero of THE SCARLET THIEF and THE MAHARAJAH’S GENERAL returns in an exhilarating and dangerous new adventure.

Bombay, 1857. Jack Lark is living precariously as an officer when his heroic but fraudulent past is discovered by the Devil – Major Ballard, the army’s intelligence officer. Ballard is gathering a web of information to defend the British Empire, and he needs a man like Jack on his side. Not far away, in Persia, the Shah is moving against British territory and, with the Russians whispering in his ear, seeks to conquer the crucial city of Herat. The Empire’s strength is under threat and the army must fight back.

As the British march to war, Jack learns that secrets crucial to the campaign’s success are leaking into their enemies’ hands. Ballard has brought him to the battlefield to end a spy’s deceit. But who is the traitor?

THE DEVIL’S ASSASSIN sweeps Jack Lark through a thrilling tale of explosive action as the British face the Persian army in the inky darkness of the desert night

Review

 DA PfC

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The book starts out with a splendid and evocative title, I have been speculating for some time as to the plot of this next Jack Lark book. Fortunately due to the vagaries of ordering some copies from the publisher im luck and they arrived so nice and early, my wait was finally over. Paul Collard has rapidly become mush read material, since the first book burst onto the market in 2013 (it seems so long ago) Scarlet Thief Review

Since that first book I have seen Paul Collards work get better and better ( Maharajah’s General Review ), more detailed, the plot tighter and tighter, the character growth sharp, to the point that you wonder if Jack will survive the book. There are the inevitable comparisons to Bernard Conwell’s Sharpe, Jack is a man from the ranks, brought up in the gutter. But that’s where in the main the similarities end. Sharpe never tried or pretended to the gentry, where Jack is living the lie, always looking over his shoulder, not to be stabbed in the back by some posh boy, but to be caught out, denounced. Will he get something wrong, will he bump into someone who knew the man he has assumed the identity of? That anticipation and fear oozes from the pages but only as the underlying heartbeat to each storyline, to each character that Jack dons and each dramatic situation he becomes embroiled in.

In devils assassin we are introduced to our usual cast of side characters, those who form the plot for Jack, the players in his elaborate scheme, those who really are the gentry of the regiment, the men who might find him out, the men he wants to prove he can be as good as , better than, to prove it’s the man not the lineage that defines.

Right from the start this book felt different, someone knows Jacks secret, and uses it to recruit Jack as a Spy Catcher, for once the fear of being discovered is reduced, and it has meant that the author is required to dial this back in the writing, it also means that that fear can be channelled into something else, and that’s the battles, the wild indiscriminate danger of war. No matter his orders Jack cannot restrain himself from being in the thick of the fight, a born leader, always at the front, going where many would fear to go, Jack has lost that fear, or at least lost the need to be controlled by it, because dead he has no more to worry about, and alive he must keep proving he is the better man and he can only do that from the front. Paul Collard has captured all of this perfectly.

I feel that many reader like me with be sat smugly from early in the book, saying “I know who the spy is”… I caution you now… beware that smugness, there is a twist in this tale, I had that smugness wiped off my face. Despite my protestations earlier in the review about the Lark/ Sharpe comparison, I have to admit to thinking that Devils Assassin could well have been a Sharpe tale, and that said fully as a compliment, I loved Sharpe. I think its because there was less fear at being caught as a pretender in his own life and more that he was an honest down to earth soldier thrust among the dandies and crazy gentry, trying to add some professional soldiers quality to the story, with a proper mission rather than just hiding in plain sight.

Personally I think Paul Collard has become one of the most readable figures in Historical Fiction, it helps that he is in a time period that is covered a lot more lightly than, eg, Rome, but I think he could pick out any period and his writing style would shine through. This truly is edge of the seat writing.

So once again I end a Jack Lark review with … HOW LONG …until the next one… a Year…. Sob??

Enjoy everyone, because if I get reading time I will do so again.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Series
Jack Lark
1. The Scarlet Thief (2013)
2. The Maharajah’s General (2013)
3. The Devil’s Assassin (2015)
Rogue (2014) (Short story)
Recruit (2015) (Short story)
The Scarlet ThiefThe Maharajah's GeneralThe Devil's AssassinRogue

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Paul Fraser Collard

I.D Roberts : Kingdom Lock (Review)

Author

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I.D. Roberts was born in Australia in 1970 and moved to England when he was three. From a young age he developed an obsession with war comics, movies, Tintin and James Bond. For the past decade he has been the film writer for a national listings magazine. After living all over the country and buying a farmhouse by mistake in Ireland, he finally settled in the South West and currently lives in rural Somerset with his wife Di and their chocolate Labrador, Steed.

Follow him on Twitter: @KingdomLock

Author’s Website: www.idroberts.com

Buy a signed copy

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It is 1914 and while battles rage across Europe, three empires – the Ottoman, the German and the British – fight for dominance in the Middle East. The merciless landscape of Persia and Mesopotamia are prizes to be claimed by the most ruthless opponent.

In the midst of the chaos is Kingdom Lock. Working for the British Intelligence Service known as the White Tabs, Lock is sent to Persia on a commission from the Australian Infantry Force. His mission: to prevent a German spy from inciting jihad and rebellion among the Muslim tribes and from seizing control of the precious oilfields. But before then, having recently rescued Amy Townshend, the daughter of a top ranking British officer, from Turkey, he now finds that he must save her from the clutches of death once more. It’s a task that seems destined to fail with bloodthirsty, relentless Turks at every turn . . .

To complete his mission, Lock must stay one step ahead of the war raging around him. And to make matters worse, Amy’s fiancé, an aristocratic young officer, is none too pleased about Lock’s developing relationship with his future wife. In this super-charged  adventure, can Kingdom Lock survive the dangers that threaten him?

Review:

I love a debut, well… I love a debut when it turns out to be one that’s something new and exciting, a bit different, and then ultimately turns out to be wonderfully written. Despite my passion for Historical Fiction, i have never really had a love of the first world war. Its always felt too dark, too emotional, to personal to the near past of everyone in the UK and Europe. This is the second book in a number of weeks that has managed to prove that great books do exist in this period (well apart from Charlies war obviously…that’s just part of my childhood reading).  The first of those read was The Shadow of War which was an eye opener, Kingdom Lock by I.D Roberts was something else.

If i was to make any comparison i suppose it would be to John Wilcox and his Simon Fonthill series, only this book is slightly more stark and gritty. Instead of the witty 352 Jenkins we have the angry, dangerous Underhill, and instead of the slightly dippy reserved Fonthill we have Kingdom Lock, a highly competent soldier / spy. A man who has his flaws yet lives with them, through them, a human among elitist snobs of the officer class. For me he was exactly the soldier i would want to have been.

The other difference in this story is the setting, its WW1 but not France, its the oilfields of Persia, chasing the very real German spy Wilhelm Wassmuss, (known as “Wassmuss of Persia”. He attempts to foment trouble for the British in the Persian Gulf. This man is someone i had heard of before, but since reading the book i have done a little research. This guy was the German Lawrence of Arabia and I.D Roberts doesn’t just bring Kingdom Lock to life he also brings Wassmuss to life in a great chase across a war torn landscape, through a rich tapestry of ancient lands and culture.

(oh and there’s a love story in there….. well told too, its not in there just for the ladies, or because these stories should have one)

Its a wonderful debut and i look forward to book 2

Highly recommended

(Parm)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, I.D Roberts