The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Move aside boys, make way for the MAN”
This is the exact impression I had while I was storming through the book called “THE KILL LIST” by the legendary Frederick Forsyth. Time and time again as he had proved earlier, he again proved why Lee Child remarked about THE DAY OF THE JACKAL “This was the book that broke the mould” The books is cat and mouse chase between an American colonel and a Jihadist Cleric. I guess telling more would give away the plot. And with this book he proved again why he stands as a man, in a crowd of thriller “boys” novelists.
Accepted that KILL LIST was no JACKAL. But, it isn’t a dud either, in fact its a taut and fast paced thriller, which involved huge amount of research (as is the case with every Forsyth book), but never did seem to be out of place. And here lies one of his fortes; Forsyth has that uncanny style of incorporating the non-fiction or the research part into a spy thriller in a way that it never becomes too taxing on the reader. As Elmore Leonard in one of his essays regarding tips to writers had said that, “skip the part which the readers tend to skip.” For that the writer must be well aware of what the readers do skip. Forsyth, in my opinion knows that too much on facts and paragraphs in a fast paced thriller will make the reader skip those pages. The reader wants action and speed; he doesn’t want to be burdened with endless facts. But then how can a political thriller be sound and strong without the facts. Be it the endless committees and hit men of the KGB and CIA in the Cold War novels, or be it the various clans and faction of a Jihadist Terror Group. The facts are needed, and Forsyth presents them in a way that they become essential to the reader, that stops him from skipping those pages. In fact they become exciting and interesting to read.
Another one of his forte, he still churns out standalones in a time where crime fiction is infested with series authors. Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of crime series, but somehow my affection for them is limited to detective fiction, and I really dont enjoy spy fiction with a character reappearing as the protagonist time after time. It’s not justifiable, I guess. How can a spy or a political assassin perform time after time again without ever being compromised. It cant happen. And, here is where Forsyth scores big, he writes standalones and creates worship-able protagonists for that single book. Hardly ever has he used the same protagonist more than twice. One for certain was Mike Martin who appeared in the Afghan and the Fist of God. And, another was Paul Devereaux. I guess it takes a Man to create a brand new HERO for every book and make them stand in the tallest way possible. It’s not a cup of tea for the boys.
Why 4 stars then, instead of 5? Two reasons, First the ending came too fast. And, Second,the protagonist almost had a cake walk. The book never gave a single upper hand to the villain. Now that is something I don't enjoy, and this is appearing time after time in his recent works. I love a duel between the two warriors where both the parties have the same ammunition to blast each other to kingdom come, and that creates tension as there comes a situation where anyone can win, as it used to be in his earlier works. Here it was absent. Barring these two points the book was flawless.
So, is Forsyth my favorite spy novelist? Yes he is. For me he is the high priest. I never had any affection for Le Carre’s style, I mean why read a spy thriller if I it is slow and reads like a work of mainstream fiction, I will read mainstream fiction instead. And this is Le Carre’s problem, his book BORES me to death. Neither they are fast, nor do they interest me. So, with Ludlum gone, and Follet not writing spy fiction anymore Forsyth reigns supreme.
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