Hard-hitting, smart and snarky, this non-stop action romp pulls few punches as rogue Special Ops killers bite back at the illicit agency which betrayed them. But their initial aim – to turn the tables on the men who manipulated them into committing off-the-books and increasingly unjustifiable homicides – rapidly escalates into something more significant. Cal Winter and his team end up on a Mission Impossible to save the world, with a side order of personal redemption in the process.
This is the third Cal Winter military thriller and as I’d not read the first two I did spend a fair bit of time playing catch up at the back there. It’s crammed full of geek-speak (well explained for us mere hoomans), army jargon (not explained at all, so you need to know your INTEL from your EXFIL) and international agencies (and if you get confused between the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service then maybe you’ve wandered into the wrong genre…)
Author Dominic Adler definitely delivers on the technical side, demonstrating extensive weaponry expertise and cracking combat sequences. Cal Winter, the series’ damaged goods protagonist, almost defines the principle that the best defence is a fast and nasty offense. But this is much more sophisticated than the typical running, shouting and shooting sprawl which BourneAgain books tend to dissolve into. ‘Saint Jude’ is more subtle than that, and includes taut scenes of bristling standoff, where deadly professionals stalk and glare but silently signal not to unleash mutually assured destruction in a public place stuffed with civilians.
The chapters rattle along; each set piece introducing another couple of intriguing characters to Adler’s carefully constructed cast. The Russian guy, for instance – now he certainly seems like someone who lives in interesting times.
Speaking of which, this well-timed tale highlights the spiralling chaos which could so easily occur in the event of a carefully co-ordinated cyber-attack. The author convincingly tangles the threads of rising tension in the Baltic together with the UK’s developing separation from mainland Europe. If the ransomware attack on the NHS and corporate networks got you worried, then Adler’s entirely plausible attack vector – which undermines the UK economy and sets the streets ablaze with civil unrest – will have you buying gold bullion and storing bottled water…
I also really enjoyed Adler’s representation of ol’ London town which explores the (literal) sub-culture of the capital, by delving into the depths of abandoned Tube stations and Cold War era fallout shelters. I was a little less convinced by Winter’s supposed addictions or the love-interest ladies, but these were minor bumps in what otherwise was a thoroughly enjoyable, rollicking ride.
Good enough to go back and grab the first two books in the series, that’s for sure.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Saint Jude Rules by Dominic Adler is available as an ebook or paperback