When it comes to writing military intelligence, covert operation styled thrillers there have been some particularly well known authors over the years. Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Ian Fleming and Len Deighton come to mind immediately. Until Mark Abernethy created Alan (Mac) McQueen, there have been fewer options to choose from set in this part of the world, seen from an Australian perspective. Mac is our super-spy, the covert operative who knows everyone, works in our geographical region, is fearless in pursuit of the goal of whatever operation he's sent on, and frighteningly able to land himself in extremely deep water at just about every outing.
COUNTER ATTACK finds him dispatched to Singapore to oversee just such a covert mission. Which goes pear-shaped. Which takes Mac from there to Saigon, and onto the former killing fields of Cambodia, all the while dodging the bad guys, and the good guys (they are somehow interchangeable yet again). Along the way he meets up with new allies, some old compatriots and uses every ounce of his nous, guile, guts and glory to avoid yet another world-wide crisis.
The fourth in the Alan McQueen series, these books are exactly what the covers are trying to tell potential readers. Big action, loud explosions, much rushing about, Mac-jep (well everyone-jep really), adrenaline fuelled, maniacal action, badder than bad baddies and a resolution by the skin of the world's teeth. We're talking thrillers here - we're definitely not talking nuanced and considered psychological analysis, although Mac isn't just an Energiser Bunny about everything. He has a wife, children, people he cares about, people he feels guilty about, people who can make him doubt himself, feel responsible. He is, however, refreshingly bullet-proof for a man of his age.
Aside from the character of Mac who is not just a man's man, he's dangerously close to a bit of a SNAG sometimes, part of the attraction of these books is that the action does take place in our region. The settings are moving around from book to book, throughout Asia, backwards and forwards out of Canberra - the politics, the military, the relationships with our immediate neighbours are woven into the action in the books in what feels like a a very realistic manner. There's a fair bit of tongue in cheek dialogue along the way, as well as quite a bit of blokey talk which personally I found quite realistic, but which could provide an unexpected tone for anybody who thinks that Australian's under pressure are all going to sound like Crocodile Dundee....
I've always been a fan of the Mac series. Whilst they are exactly what they promise to be - big, bold, loud, mad, bad and slightly out of control, there's a little bit more than that. There are some nice little human touches, there's more than just Mac in the character line up and then there's the localised settings which are the icing on the cake. Even with the reoccurring character set, you wouldn't have to have read the earlier books in the series to dive into COUNTER ATTACK. But summer's on the way and these are perfect lazy summer day reads - so why not catch up with Mac in the earlier books and really get an idea of where he's coming from?