There is something about Ted Bell’s work that has me returning each time a new piece has been published. He touches on electrifying aspects of espionage mixed with humour that I find highly captivating, but there remains a constant irritation on my part with some of the dialogue and character interactions throughout many of these tales. While spending time with his son in Switzerland, Lord Alex Hawke is keen to see what progress Alexei has made at ski school. Riding up to a mountain peak in a gondola could not be more peaceful, especially on Christmas Day, but tragedy strikes when the cable snaps and the machine crashes. Scrambling to get help, Hawke ensures that his son is alive and makes sure that Alexei is put on one of the medical helicopters headed for a local hospital. However, when Hawke arrives for medical updates, there is no sign of Alexei or record that he ever made it to the hospital. Hawke assumes the worst and assembles his closest friends to help him find the Hawke heir, worried that he has been kidnapped. Meanwhile, a plane carrying the Russian President goes down in rural France. Based on the wreckage, it would appear President Putin has perished, news that spreads quickly through new agencies worldwide. However, many know that news can be faked to serve the source! Putin is alive, though has decided to ‘rough it’ and stay off the radar. He reaches out to an unexpected source, Joseph ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalingrad, and seeks assistance to devise a plan. Sure that there are those in Russia who are trying to see his downfall, Putin enacts Operation: Overkill, which will see him rise to power and destroy all his enemies, including those ruthless oligarchs within the Kremlin. While Lord Hawke continues to search for his son, tidbits of news reach him that leave him to believe that his once friend, Putin, is not only alive, but may also have orchestrated Alexei’s kidnapping. Lord Hawke will stop at nothing to bring Alexei back to safety, though is unaware that Overkill may have massive consequences that cost him more than he could have predicted. Bell weaves this energetic tale in his signature fashion, peppering the story with familiar and new characters to keep the story fresh. Recommended for those who enjoy Alex Hawke’s pompous nature and ability to drum up a decent bit of espionage with international thrills.
Ted Bell has a wonderful gift with his writing and is able to bring a story home with ease, even if I find some of the ideas far-fetched and the characters irritating. As I listened to the book, I gave this much thought and concluded that some of the irritants could arise from Bell’s past work writing for a soap opera, as I find certain plots cheesy and dialogue overly stuffy. Still, there is much worthy of the reader’s time in this novel. Those familiar with the series will know that Lord Alex Hawke is a complex man who is the modern incarnation of James Bond. His allure to the opposite sex and ability to fight anyone barehanded make him an interesting character and one the reader might enjoy. There are crumbs of a more recent backstory in this piece, as well as flashbacks to Hawke’s work with Putin in previous novels. Bell keeps Hawke on a similar path, striving to find his son and stopping at nothing to bring that about, even if it means killing the likes of Putin. There are some interest returning characters who, in their own way, help add depth and accentuate the traits of Hawke throughout this novel. From a prim and proper valet to a life-long friend who worked for Scotland Yard, and even the carefree Floridian who is happy to rush out and help, Bell has crafted these characters effectively over the ten full novels and various shorter pieces, many of whom develop on par with Hawke. There are surely some newer faces that grace the pages of Bell’s latest book, villains and heroes alike. Bell takes literary freedom and injects humour when needed to keep the reader from getting too bogged down. The premise of the story is decent and Bell effectively weaves a tale that mixes love with violent determination. The reader is taken down a few rabbit holes to get to the final standoff, pitting Hawke against those whose evil cannot be easily defined. Bell works his magic to suspend reality while also keeping the story grounded and plausible. I’ll likely stick with these novels when they are published, but cannot shake some of the annoyance that comes to the surface when I read them.
Kudos, Mr. Bell, for another great novel. I enjoy what you do in your writing and hope you can tap into the current world sentiment with your novels, which always spin things and keep the reader wondering.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons