02 September 2012

Forsyth's first sequel

Thriller | Frederick Forsyth | The Cobra

Frederick Forsyth has been writing bestsellers since around the time I learned to read. The first of these was the paradigmatic The Jackal. The Cobra is possibly the first time he has reused characters, so in a way, it's a sequel to The Avenger. For reasons that I cannot tell you for fear of spoilers, it is, let me say, unlikely that there will be another sequel in the series.

In The Avenger, Cal Dexter, a small-town lawyer, is actually a bounty hunter, who is out hunting an evil villain, whom Paul Devereux, a spook, is trying to protect, so that he (Paul) can use him (evil villain) to get at an even bigger villain.

In the sequel, Devereux is tasked by the President of the USA to finish the cocaine business once and for all. Surprisingly to everyone except himself, he decides to pull in Cal Dexter as his right hand man.

F Forsyth's books are nothing if not meticulously researched. As the story proceeds towards its breathtakingly unexpected end, you can't but help being drawn in, believing that, yes, in fact the cocaine trade can be stamped out like this, and the people in the story are doing just that. It's a bit of a shame to come to the end and realise that cocaine is coming along just fine after all.

There are writers like James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell who take you down to the grisly details of what the villains do. Forsyth is more sparing, and gives only enough to let you understand the characters, but stops just short of enough to send you running for the toilet. (It's going to be a long time before I read another J Patterson book for adults, or one by P Cornwell. I'm getting more squeamish the older I get).

Altogether, a fairly satisfying book and a vicarious look at what it could take to get the cocaine monkey off the addicts' backs. If only real life was as simple as a complex book plot.

Worth a read. Given that this was probably my third reread, you can believe I'm putting my eyeballs where my mouth is (uh, no, unfortunate metaphor, but you get the idea). And, yes, you should read The Avenger, too, preferably before you read this one.

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