Agent 6 - Tom Rob Smith
This is the third novel I've read by Mr Smith. All three have had as the central character Leo Demidov. Leo is an ex-KGB officer who has wrestled with his loyalty to state and party with his own inner moral code. The two previous books Child 44 and Secret Speech were both excellent reads and I was looking forward to this one. I wasn't disappointed - it leaps forward in timeline at times (like some films do) from Leo's time in the KGB in the 50s through the 60s and onwards into the 80s. The plot centres on a tragic event which completely throws Leo's life into turmoil - one that will haunt him for the next 15 years.
This is a brilliant book. Really a fantastic page turner with shocks and twists at all page and there is more than one climax in the book - the final ending was for me extremely emotional. There is a great deal of knowledge shown about Russia through the period and you do get under the skin of people living in that regime at those times. It is an interesting insight to a world that I have no personal experience of, this might be a novel but it is a highly educational one at that.
The previous books have received much critical acclaim and this is just as good in my opinion. The one odd thing like the previous two is that all speech is indicated in italics which takes a little getting used to. Not sure why but it has been a consistent style through all three books so Tom obviously has his reasons for it.
Thoroughly recommended - one of my reads of the year so far.
The Legion - Simon Scarrow
The umpteenth volume in Simon Scarrow's Roman series still staring the intrepid duo of Macro and Cato. If you've followed these since the beginning when they started as the "Eagle" series the boys have been to England via Germany and back to Rome and to the outer reaches of the other end of the empire in Syria. Then the "Eagle" moniker got dropped and the lads continued their adventures ending up putting down a slave rebellion on Crete. This latest book takes up the story from where it left off with Macro and Cato chasing after Ajax the leader of the rebellion who had escaped from their clutches at the end of the last book. This time they end up in Egypt chasing Ajax and his band of rebels down and also having to take on the might of the Nubian (Sudanese in modern terms I believe) army in a battle to preserve Rome's control over the bread basket of the empire - the fertile lands bordering the Nile.
It is all good rollicking stuff - with individual fights and battles a plenty. If you've read any of these before there is little different in this one, that isn't a criticism this is a winning formula so why change it. There is one twist revealed right at the end as they finally corner their nemesis Ajax that I hadn't been expecting so touché Mr Scarrow on that one. The other little plot twist on this one is that Cato is rising rapidly through the ranks and now outranks his friend and mentor Macro leading to some little tension between them.
So all in all not a bad read - and the ending? Well the next instalment is ably lined up and I believe already hitting the shelves in hardback form...