“The name of the ship is the Fort William” said Sutton, passing McKinley an intelligence dossier. “Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply vessel. We’ve just got hold of what appears to be the wreck site on satellite so finding it won’t be a problem and we can confirm details as you travel. We need to get you down there to secure her cargo. That’s your absolute top priority; we’ll let the Navy figure out what took her down.”
“Two questions sir,” responded McKinley. “Why us and why is the cargo sensitive?”
“Twenty seven thousand ton ships don’t just vanish with no time to send a mayday and, as far as we can tell, no survivors. Random attack? Accident?” The general spread his hands. “We don’t know. But something serious happened at about 02:00 GMT and we can’t ignore the possibility of a hostile action.”
McKinley looked at his watch. It was 04:18. No wonder the morning’s rush.
Sutton glanced behind McKinley to where there was a clock above the soundproof door. “Yes,” he continued, “time’s a factor. We need to get to the cargo before anyone else and we need to keep an ultra-tight lid on the situation. The ship was carrying four WE82 Trident warheads for a submarine that’s not supposed to exist. So it’s definitely not supposed to be in the Persian Gulf with armed missiles in range of the Iranians either. This is above top secret McKinley. Apart from the Joint Forces Command and a handful of admiralty at Faslane who are going mad right now, no-one knew about this, not even the captain of the Fort William. Why your lot? Yours is the only complete team I can deploy at the moment and, like I said, this needs to be completely secret. Not a whisper to the Saudis, the Bahrainis and never mind their neighbours across the gulf; no-one. The Navy are sending a destroyer but it’ll take nearly a day to get there and I can get you on site and working in less than nine hours.”
Xander Richards. Coast: An Act of Burial (Kindle Locations 305-320).
I have a love-hate relationship with thrillers. I love when the action is intense, but I hate when the story telegraphs the suspense to the point that you see things coming. Finding a balance is not easy for all but the best authors. There is a certain finesse that usually takes time and practice to achieve, but when the author gets there, the books can be magnificent.
Xander Richards's debut novel, COAST: An Act of Burial, revolves around a trio of operatives from a top secret British special operations unit that is unknown by all but the highest ranking member of the government. When they are sent on an urgent mission to recover some lost nuclear warheads, things quickly spiral out of control and they are forced to track down the weapons and discover the traitor in their midst before an unknown enemy can do the unthinkable and turn the weapons loose upon the world.
The story is an action laden thriller filled with all of the intensity one might expect from a much more seasoned author. The action sequences are strong and written in a way that it is easy to picture the events unfolding in your mind's eye. The attention to detail that the author brings to the novel is incredible and ads a sense of realism to the book that is occasionally found lacking in others. The main characters in the book are well defined and it is easy to keep them separated. The dialogue feels natural and is well written, adding to the believability of the characters and the world of the COAST operatives.
If there is a fault in this book it is an over attention to the same details that make it feel so realistic. The action is broken up by discussions of weapon names and attributes as well as some internal dialogue that gives us insight into the actions and reactions of the characters. The problem is not so much the detail, as it is the placement of those details and the way it can ruin the flow. One other aspect that is bothersome is the time between action sequences. In the real world these spaces exist. Soldiers and spies need time to recover, investigate and plan, but the written inclusion of so much of this time, along with the copious amount of detail, slams the breaks on the reader rather than keeping that reader adrenaline pumping. If these sections were trimmed or cut by even a quarter, the pacing would have been more aggressive and made for an even more thrilling ride.
This novel is not a quick weekend read that you take to the beach, but more of an experience worth taking your time on so that you can take in all of the rich detail that the author supplies. With a little more work, Xander Richards could easily find himself in the company of other renowned authors such as Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler. I enjoyed this book and I look forward to a follow up that is hinted at in the final pages.
But the book from Amazon.com here.
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