If Reacher were a spy, not a citizen avenger, he’d be a lot like the Englishman, Dan Raglan, the protagonist of David Gilman’s new globe trotting action series. There’s a comparable level of excitement in this thriller series for Jack Reacher fans to savour and lovers of Gilman’s historical epics will still find much to admire in the action driven plotting, albeit in a very modern setting. It all began last year with a book entitled The Englishman, funnily enough, and all the energy and verve of that opener carries through to this sequel Betrayal.
The Englishman is always there for an old friend, as they say, and before he joined British intelligence he was in the French Foreign Legion. The way to contact him is through his old legionnaire colleague Serge ‘Bird’ Sokol and someone from the Englishman’s past has reached out. So now he’s in Marseilles tracking down an intermediary, Jacques Allard, but when the Englishman finds Allard he’s already dead. If he had arrived a few minutes later it would look like a drugs overdose or a suicide but the Englishman is confronted by a couple of heavies ransacking the dead man’s place. Giving him little time to react, the two pros attack but eventually the Englishman takes them down. With no idea yet of what he has stepped into the Englishman realises he has to head to the States to find the man looking for his help, Casey Zeller.
Pretending to be a tourist arriving in Florida, the Englishman sets off alarm bells with the FBI and CIA worried about a British operation on their turf. Langley send agent Jenna Voss to keep an eye on him. Slipping the leash, he discovers Casey Zeller has gone missing. Zeller has a sensitive job, he works at the Pentagon Defence Intelligence Agency as an analyst. The Englishman connects Zeller to Izan Esposito, an ex army sergeant currently rotting in a DC prison. Esposito will tell the Englishman what it is that Zeller was investigating that got him disappeared but only in exchange for his help in protecting his family on the outside who are under pressure from a local street gang. So, the Englishman agrees.
Zeller was looking into links between private military contractors and central American drugs cartels bringing narcotics into the States from central America. There’s a conspiracy that could involve people at a number of agencies, including Border Protection and Homeland Security. When one of the Englishman’s contacts is killed, and then a senior US politician, he realises the conspirators are just one step behind him. As he investigates, the Englishman has to go up against a dangerous cabal of corporate and political corruption, drug cartels and a deadly Iranian assassin – all with CIA and FBI on his tail because Agent Voss takes her job very seriously.
If there’s a drawback to Betrayal it’s the book’s convoluted start. There are lots of contacts and links in the chain before the Englishman gets to the man actually in trouble. However, once the story clicks into gear it’s a full on thrill ride.
There’s a fair bit of globetrotting, from Marseilles to Washington to the Honduran rainforest, and Gilman is very good on bringing locations to life on the page, making you feel the atmosphere in the hot sweaty jungle or the cooler but equally deadly urban streets. The action is non-stop, at times explosive, and works all the better for the well-crafted villains who add to the fun. No spoilers, but look out for the Iranian assassin I mentioned earlier and a crescendo of an ending.
The Englishman is a loner but even he needs allies and Voss comes to play her part. The plot is clever but never too complex and the details don’t interfere with the break neck momentum of the story. Raglan, the Englishman, holds it all together. He has a real presence and plenty of shady tones that make him intriguing but, of course, he has a central moral core. This is thoroughly entertaining, blisteringly good fun. The betrayal easily lives up to the promise of the first novel, The Englishman.
Head of Zeus
CFL Rating: 4 Stars