Wrath of God

Wrath of GodIn 1920s Mexico, three men are brought together under different circumstances and blackmailed into completing a mission for a Mexican army officer. The three men are Keogh, a former IRA assasin, Van Horne, a priest who also robs banks, and Janos, an overweight businessman who stops at nothing to better himself. The mission they receive is to capture a man, dead or alive, Tomas de la Plata, who has gone renegade and is reigning terror on a small part of northern Mexico. I really enjoyed this book. All the characters are fairly well-developed and you get to know them and their motivations by the end. Not Higgins’ best book, but his fans will definitely enjoy this western action.

If you like the book, try and find a copy of the movie that was based on Higgins’ novel. It stars Robert Mitchum, Frank Langella, Victor Buono, Ken Hutchison, and Rita Hayworth in her last movie. The movie differs from the book in certain parts, but just like the novel, it is highly enjoyable, and full of great characters and plenty of action.

Confessional

ConfessionalDevlin is the former IRA gunman, German intelligence operative and all around charming rogue from such other Higgins works as “The Eagle has Landed” and “Touch the Devil.”This time, Devlin is semi-retired from the IRA and working as a professor of English literature at Trinity College in Dublin. The KGB has placed a deep-cover operative in Ireland, where he’s killed both Protestants and Catholics at key times, in order to maintain the state of strife and distrust that exists in Northern Ireland.

But when a Soviet engineer defects to Britain, he has a story to tell. The KGB had set up a town called Drumore in the Ukraine, but it’s an exact replica of a market town in Northern Ireland. There, a young man named Mikhail Kelly, son of a Russian mother and Irish revolutionary Sean Kelly, is trained to act as a normal Irishman, and a member of the IRA. Kelly has been in Ireland for twenty years, acting on Moscow’s orders to derail any peace initiatives.

Now, the jig is up. But the KGB attempts to put Kelly, his usefulness over, out of commission. They fail, and now Kelly has no where to run and nowhere to hide. In a last act of desperation, he sets his sights on the Pope, who’ll soon be visiting England.

Devlin, working in conjunction with the IRA and Brigadier Charles Ferguson, must stop him.

This is a good book for Higgins fans. The beginning of the book seems sort of slow, and never quite builds the tension it intends to. The action picks up near the end, when Mikhail Kelly is unmasked in his assumed identity. Kelly’s romp through Great Britain, one step ahead of Devlin and Ferguson, is the best part of the book.

Bad Company

The novel, the author’s 35th, begins promisingly, playing to Higgins’s greatest strength, WWII action. Young Baron Max von Berger, entrusted by Hitler during the last days of the Third Reich with his diary as well as the key to a vast fortune in Swiss banks, makes a daring and exciting escape from the F?hrerbunker. But once the narrative leaps toward the present, it begins to flag, with a second setup (including a nifty Saddam cameo) explaining why and how the baron inherits the wealth and power of the Rashid family, the Arab oil kingpins destroyed by Higgins’s customary antihero, Sean Dillon, in the last book. Problematic is Higgins’s use of von Berger and his thuggish son as villains here; they lack the evil charisma of the Rashids. To avenge the death of the Rashids, von Berger targets Dillon and his master, British black ops commander Gen. Charles Ferguson, who fights back with the help of the usual crew of “hard” men, including computer whiz Major Roper, White House black ops chief Blake Johnson, London tough guys Harry and Billy Salter, et al. Matters pick up a bit when von Berger’s son kidnaps General Ferguson to Germany, but Dillon’s rescue attempt whips by much too quickly, as if Higgins were hurrying to finish this book and get on to number 36.

Storm Warning

Storm WarningIt’s 1944 and Germany is facing its final defeat. Five thousand miles across the Allied dominated Atlantic, twenty-two men and five nuns aboard the Barquentine Deutschland are battling home to Kiel. Among them are a U-boat ace captured in a raid on Falmouth. A female American doctor caught in the nightmare of flying bombs. A gunboat commander who’s fought from the Solomons to the Channel and a rear admiral desperate to get some of the action. Allies and enemies, men and women, the hunters and the haunted all drawn into the eye of the storm.

Thunderpoint

In this thrilling tale that combines World War II espionage with contemporary politics, Higgins proposes that Nazi lieutenant Martin Bormann escaped Allied forces in 1945 and made his way in a U-boat to South America, along with a notebook listing U.S. and British Nazi sympathizers. One of the names in the notebook happens to be the Duke of Windsor. In 1992, a diver in the Caribbean finds the wreck of the vessel, and word gets back to the British authorities that the notebook is still onboard. Irish terrorist Sean Dillon is recruited to retrieve the item, but he’s not the only one interested: a notorious drug dealer with Parliamentary connections is also in on the hunt. The involving story unfolds rapidly across two continents as the rivals race to secure the momentous prize. Helped immeasurably by Dillon’s fascinating character and a stylish performance by Roger Moore, the tension builds to an enthralling climax. Highly recommended.

Hell Is Always Today

Hell Is Always TodayThe setting is a large city in northern England, but it is not clear, in this particular novel, which city. Perhaps the author expected readers to have read the earlier novels in the series. The story is a complex plot about a serial killer.

The story, like many others by Jack Higgins, takes place in a very short period of time – less than a week. A number of young women of the evening have been killed by an unknown assailant called The Rainlover in the press. Another murder occurs, but it does not quite fit the pattern.

The plot is complex, and a suspect emerges early in the story, but all is not quite as it seems with the last murder. An escaped criminal (a cat burgler) enters into the story to complicate matters. The final climax has the usual makings of a Jack Higgins novel as everything ends in a final battle.

A Fine Night For Dying

A Fine Night For DyingIn this post-war “thriller”, British intelligence agent Paul Chavasse is assigned a case involving a body discovered in the English channel weighted down with chains. Following a lead to a human smuggling ring (to circumvent tight immigration laws), he trives to be a customer using an Australian identity as a cover. The passage back to England becomes one of cross and double-cross, and before it’s over several more deaths go down ere Chavasse closes in on the bad guys and, together with the victim’s brother, ensures the carriage of justice.While the storyline is suspenseful, this is a pretty short novel at 180 pages set in fairly large print. The plot is quite straightforward, with just a few characters and a couple of settings, and is characterized by sustained action as opposed to intrigue or complexity. By today’s modern thriller standards, this simplistic book comes across as pretty tame — maybe that was to be expected from a book published nearly 35 years ago.

The White House Connection

The White House ConnectionThe Irish peace process is at risk because of the actions of a heartbroken mother in Higgins’s 29th thriller. American-born and married to a British lord, 60-ish Lady Helen Lang, the “nicest person you’ll ever meet,” has taken it upon herself to avenge the brutal death of her son, Peter, at the hands of the Sons of Erin, a fringe Irish-nationalist group led by a psychotic Vietnam vet and with operatives in Dublin, London and the U.S. Other members include gangster Tim Pat Ryan, IRA terrorist Jack Barry, U.S. Senator Michael Cohan and a mysterious member known only as the Connection, who is revealed to be a mole in the White House. With nothing more than an old government file, a modified computer and a .25 revolver, Lady Helen makes short work of most of these villains, managing at one point to knock off three of them in four paragraphs. Naturally, this wholesale violence attracts the attention of Higgins regulars Brigadier Charles Ferguson and Sean Dillon, who try to protect Senator Cohan during his upcoming visit to London. It’s not giving away any surprises to reveal that eventually the bad guys get theirs, but there are precious few surprises here, and a bloodless, cartoonish quality to everything from the dialogue to the killings. Higgins’s attempt at characterizations are unpersuasive at bestAto prove that she’s really a decent sort, Lady Helen passes up a chance to kill Senator Cohan in favor of shooting a couple of muggersAand as usual, Sean Dillon’s prowess as a gunman includes the ability to outshoot men who have already drawn a gun on him. As for the style, everything is fast, flat and featureless, like driving a car on cruise control in Kansas.

Eye Of The Storm

Eye Of The StormEarly in 1991, while the Gulf war is in full bloom, operatives of Saddam Hussein hire legendary terrorist Sean Dillon to take the war to the enemy. A master of disguise and subterfuge, Dillon began his career with the IRA, earning the enmity of Liam Devlin–the unforgettable antihero of The Eagle Has Landed , who makes a featured appearance here–and of Martin Brosnan, an American Special Forces hero and IRA member turned college professor. After Dillon’s attempt to assassinate former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during a visit to France fails, he decides to go after her successor, John Major, and his War Cabinet with a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street. Learning that British Intelligence is recruiting Brosnan to track him down, Dillon confronts his old enemy, a meeting that ends in tragedy and leaves Brosnan bitterly committed to revenge. Although readers can be sure that Dillon’s scheme will be foiled, fun remains in the how and why. Standard Higgins in style, plot and resolution, this is bound for bestsellerdom

Sheba

ShebaIn this slick archeological thriller, Higgins (The Eagle Has Landed) reaffirms his skill as a storyteller. In 1939, with the world on the brink of war, American Arabist Gavin Kane is hired to find a missing husband. The missing husband, John Cunningham, disappeared while on a wild goose chase through the Middle East in search of the legendary Temple of Sheba. The Temple turns out to be all too real. And, unfortunately for Kane and his friends, the Nazi’s have discovered the Temple first and are using it as headquarters to implement Hitler’s plan to destroy the Suez Canal. The mixture of archeology and Nazism, naturally brings to mind Indiana Jones and, in fact, the book is very reminiscent of those movies. This is the kind of story where all the villains have German accents, and the heroes can survive a 30-mile hike in the desert with no water. Who cares if the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes (the dashing archeologist, the mysterious beautiful woman)? This fast-paced story has enough action and adventure to make up for any such shortcomings.