A thriller that features surfing and a special operative anti-terrorism order, based on Eastern mysticism, is not exactly "expected territory" even with the best will in the world. Which makes NO MAN'S LAND by Australian author Roland Fishman an interesting prospect.
For something that starts out with such an odd premise, there is much to like about this book. Sticking closely to the thriller format there are thrills, spills and a lot of action built into a plot that actually makes sense. The fundamentals of threat are here - kidnapping, terrorism, assassination attempts - everything is pointing to somebody trying very hard to sideline the Order and it's enigmatic leader Thomas Wing. Despite Carter's willing separation from the group, he's dragged back in its defence - and in an attempt to save his own life.
As well as all the action, the past relationship between Carter and Wing's daughter Erina adds an interesting twist to the standard romance environment. Means the sexual tension is nicely balanced with a serious dollop of guilt and resentment but despite any personal difficulties, Erina and Carter have to work together to stop the terrorist cell hell bent on destroying the Order, leaving them free to wreak havoc in Sydney on New Year's Eve. Of course the terrorist cell is made up of the stock standard "baddies" these days which is increasingly predictable. The setting, however, is very different and works incredibly well - keeping everything within our region and considerably more real as a result.
There's no doubt at all that the unusual elements of this thriller are what give it some of its strength. The nature of the order, and the belief system behind it, creates an interesting challenge between acceptance and fight-back. Mirrored somewhat in the surfer mindset as well. All of this makes Carter an unexpected hero type - flawed, questioning, brave with enough of the all action hero type to be believable he's quite realistic, very believable. The relationship between Carter and Erina has the same sorts of contrasts - the attraction, their past, their willingness to put everything to one side in the pursuit of the ultimate aim, makes them again, believable. And it doesn't hurt that there's nothing decorative female about Erina - she's a strong, capable woman in her own right - just the sort of person you would expect a parent like Wing to have raised within the order.
Added to the believability of the unexpected, the realistic portray of the two central characters, and a strong plot, there's a hefty dose of good, dry very Australian humour and a dusting of super-hero goings on. Which makes NO MAN'S LAND spot on for a bit of over the summer escapist reading. Or during winter amusement, or any time of the year good thrills and spills.