Beatrix Rose is a special agent cut from the Jason Bourne cloth. She’s a dead shot with any weapon, be it a 9mm handgun, a H&K automatic, a throwing knife or a khurkuri blade (presented to her by a grateful ghurka, inevitably). She’s a planner par excellence, multilingual, resourceful and with friends in high places at MI6. She’s the ultimately deniable operational asset. Beatrix Rose can take on six jihadi gunmen while munching morphine and fighting the symptoms of her increasingly serious illness. What an entire platoon of SEALs might fail to do, Beatrix can accomplish all on her ownsome.
If that’s too tough for you to swallow then look elsewhere for your entertainment. But if you like your protagonist to be unfeasibly accomplished and almost unstoppable, and enjoy stunning slices of near non-stop action, then settle down for a rapid-fire read.
This isn’t really a complete novel, not in the traditional sense. We enter part-way through Beatrix’s story, and find her hiding in plain sight in Marrakech. There’s a fair bit of back-story to catch up on, and while that is delivered in bite-size chunks, a contain cargo ship is hijacked off the Somali coast – a gripping action sequence which feels far too credible for comfort. The crew and security guys are held hostage, and that’s the trigger for Beatrix to leave her lair. She has unfinished business with one of the ex-soldiers, business which sends her straight into the line of fire…
If some of the characters are supermen, whose abilities defy the suspension of disbelief, then the weapons tech and tactical background to this hardcore op feel thoroughly grounded in well-informed reality. The military jargon is delivered without frills; the descriptive passages just detailed enough to drag you into the theatre of the action without slowing the pace or relaxing the tension. The hostages are being executed and it’s time for Beatrix to make her move.
Like an ongoing TV series, the end of this book is nowhere near the end of the story. Beatrix is given her next clue to chase down, and this episode closes after establishing the parameters of the narrative and the core characters, with high-level machinations in the background. It’s a breathless concoction of a series of carefully choreographed action set pieces, and the promise of much more of the same to come.
Although I found it tricky to accept several aspects of Beatrix’s character (not least her opium habit and her supposed lack of physical condition, given her proficiency in the field), the sheer solidity of the military background detail added sufficient gravitas to her exploits to ground this adventure somewhere close to reality. The scenes set in the refugee camp, the Somali town and Marrakech itself all add gritty physical reality to the story. You can almost taste the streetfood, and smell the open sewers.
I’d be happy to read the next book in the series, but don’t expect any kind of resolution to the story arc any time soon.