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Wednesday 10 May 2017

‘Cold’ by John Sweeney

Published by Thomas & Mercer,
1 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-50393-4221-1 (PB)

An ex-Mormon CIA director, an ex-IRA terrorist and a Russian ex-general join together to find the Russian’s daughter and foil Zoba, the strong-man ruler of Russia.

The  reader needs to stay alert in this book, with rapid changes of person and place, and from flashback to present with each section of the book about 8 pages. The first quarter establishes the strands of plot and key personnel: we meet Joe Tiplady first, ex-soldier, former IRA terrorist, and now working as a special-needs teacher. In the present, he’s being followed by a woman he’s nicknamed Wolf-Eyes, and two black-clad heavies; in his past, he was given special training in Afghanistan, which taught him how to kill, but also showed him that he’s not a killer. Then we move to Utah, and meet the wonderfully zany Zeke and Mary-Lou Chandler, and learn about Zeke’s time as a CIA operative. A change to Russia introduces Reikhman,  and the first of a series of vividly-described torture scenes. More flashback scenes show how Zeke met General Gennady – and then we’re launched into the present day.

The action is fast moving with allegiences switching as the plot continues. There is plenty of action, a high corpse-count, and some humour, like when a British operative tells a bull-shitting CIA official that his local pub is two centuries older than the CIA man’s country. The novel builds up to a final, shocking, scene which reveals a surprise ‘Mr Big’.

A stay-alert thriller with a large cast of characters and plenty of action.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor
John Sweeney born 1 January 1958 is a British writer and broadcaster who became a YouTube sensation in 2007 while working for BBC Panorama and lost his temper with a member of the Church of Scientology. He admitted looking like an 'exploding tomato'. As a reporter, first for The Observer, then the BBC Sweeney has covered wars and chaos in more than eighty countries and been undercover to a number of tyrannies including Chechnya, North Korea and Zimbabwe. He has helped free seven people falsely convicted of killing babies, starting with Sally Clark and Angela Cannings. He has 'door-stepped' Vladimir Putin over the killings in Ukraine and when he challenged Donald Trump about his business relationship with mafiosi Fat Tony Salerno, Mr Trump walked out on him. Over the course of his career John has won an Emmy, two Royal Television Society prizes, an Sony Gold award, the What The Papers Say Journalist of The Year Prize, an Amnesty International prize and the Paul Foot Award. Sweeney's rule of thumb in journalism is: 'I poke crocodiles in the eye with a stick.'  He lives in London, has written seven non-fiction books and two novels. His first, Elephant Moon, has sold more than 150,000 copies. Cold,  is his second book.

He's on twitter, his handle stemming from his encounter with Scientology: @johnsweeneyroar

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

A review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings can be read here.

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