Brimstone, Russel Hutchings
The first in the Mantra-6 series (Nitrate has been released now), the author of BRIMSTONE, Russel Hutchings, is a former SAS Warrant Officer with over 20 years' service in the Regiment. That experience shows very clearly in the authority of the action sequences, and the way that operational details are laid out, and the feelings and experiences of operational staff described. In this case central character John Devereaux, is a SAS Warrant Officer, on secondment to ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service).
Everything operational in this novel says vivid experience, although one does vaguely hope that off-the-books clandestine cells buried deep within ASIS are from the author's imagination, rather than reality. Obviously this series is going to lean very strongly to the thriller side of the equation and it's full to the brim of danger, peril, action, pace and a hefty amount of intrigue.
It's perhaps slightly less successful in the dialogue stakes than in the action side of things, and there was something little odd about a number of characters who seemed to be a bit of a sideshow to the main action. In particular I never did quite work out what the daughter of one of the main targets was doing, working as an assassin in her own right which felt a bit off-piste in terms of the Mantra Plot, but headed into oddly gratuitous territory with the interactions between her and Devereaux. A bit boys own fantasy maybe, and whilst it appears might have been part of an attempt to chuck some moral ambiguity around, just didn't work for this reader.
Having said that, it's an action thriller at its heart, with that great sense of authority and knowledge about the operational aspects, giving some interesting glimpses into the nature of clandestine activities, and the danger that operatives face every moment they are out there, on their own, with a mission to complete, and a lot of people that would much prefer they failed badly.
John Devereaux, an SAS Warrant Officer, is seconded to the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and handed a mission that will test him to his very core – both professionally and personally.
The operationally deniable mission: infiltrate into Cambodia via parachute in the dead of night and assassinate two high-value targets, alone, and with two dozen enemy soldiers in his way.
From the relentless jungles of Cambodia to the chaotic civilian-filled streets of Sydney and Bangkok, to the secretive dens of Moscow and the extravagant French Riviera, explosive SAS and ASIS action uncovers a shadowy and powerful organisation that brings us face to face with the Russian Mafia, and an assassin getting intimate.
Unbeknown to Devereaux, the Director-General of the Secret Intelligence Service, Magnus Webb, is testing him for a far more important role – to head an off-the-books clandestine cell buried deep inside this secret organisation and known only as MANTRA-6.
Devereaux’s mission has only just begun...