All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Contact Zero – David Wolstencroft

I originally picked up this book from the local library as it is set in South America and I had been looking for novels set there for my Global Challenge. However upon reading it, only about half the book is set there so I decided not to use it for my challenge as I’d prefer the entire book to be set on the continent.

The novel opens with several undercover agents around the world finding their covers blown and themselves either under attack or set up for a crime they didn’t commit. Only three of ten survive the assassination and framing attempts and they ring their ‘handlers’ in London to find out they’ve been cut loose. The organisation they work for (MI:5) isn’t going to help them now. They’re on their own.

Ben Locke was working in Lima, Peru when he was framed for trying to smuggle drugs. Escaping from the airport and going on the run, he contacts his graduating class via an online chatroom they use (they’re all freshmen, on their first assignments) and through one of them he learns that over half of their fellow agents have been assassinated in what looks like ‘accidents’. Ben, Lucy and Nat rendezvous in a place in South America and try to desperately figure out what to do. Their only answer: Contact Zero.

On their archival rotation for their training for MI:5, they all heard about Contact Zero but no one is entirely sure what it is. Some think it’s a group of agents that have been burned like they are, who provide assistance to those in their situation. Some think it’s a trap, testing loyalty. Some think it’s a myth and doesn’t exist at all. Ben, Lucy and Nat have no other options. Their money is running out, they need to find someone, anyone who can  help them. So they construct a cryptic message designed to alert Contact Zero, if indeed any such thing exists.

They get a response and a bunch of cryptic clues that take them through South America, into Central America, to Israel and then onto Europe. Along the way they pick up a fourth member, a graduating classmate who wasn’t killed as reported in the press. They work together, trying to extricate themselves from the situation they’re in. Meanwhile, one of them knows a lot more than they’re letting on about what has happened to their friends and what this all means.

This novel was kind of like reading a action blockbuster movie where the “good guys” all get shot at, beaten up, attacked, double crossed etc and yet all still seem to keep soldiering on, cracking jokes, figuring out clues and avoiding being shot and killed.  The author writes on the British TV series Spooks of which I’ve seen a couple of episodes many years ago so it seems he’s well versed in writing about agents. He researched this book extensively, talking to many spies about the elusive ‘Contact Zero’. And it was an engaging read, especially the beginning where it’s a series of attacks on the spies before you even know who is who. It jumped straight into the action and kept up the pace for most of the novel, barely pausing except for a couple of patches where the four survivors are just travelling around.

I enjoyed the read but I think it is just like a lot of those action blockbuster movies – good fun while you’re watching them and engaged by them but as soon as they’re over it’s onto the next one and they’re out of sight, out of mind. It wasn’t quite good enough that I get the feeling it will stick with me in any way at all. Plenty of action but not a lot of character depth and development. They’re all so busy double crossing each other and keeping things from each other and freezing out this person or that person and whispering about another person over in a corner that it’s almost impossible to get a handle on any of them. They all actually come across as quite unlikable most of the times with only a few really redeeming scenes for Ben, Lucy and the fourth one they gather along the way. Nat isn’t redeeming at all and shows signs of being downright creepy on several occasions. The villains are suitably villainous but also in the same empty way – you don’t really learn anything about them, they’re just 2D bad guys lurking in the background and pulling strings.

I like the way Wolstencroft writes though, I think he can really think out and spin a story, so I’ve picked up another novel of his which I got cheap in a sale an online bookstore I frequent was having. I’m quite looking forward to reading that as I like a good action novel like this, or something that Matthew Reilly has written every so often.

6/10

Book #78 of my 100 Book Challenge

1 Comment »