I am a consumer and certainly not an expert on marketing by any stretch of the imagination. I do not know why ‘something’ sells, and why other things don’t. Therefore take my following comments with a grain of salt because I am not in a position to comment in an informative manner. However, when I look at the cover of JJ Cooper’s The Interrogator, I see a high-tech thriller in the vein of Chris Ryan or Andy NcNabb. The truth however, is that The Interrogator is actually a throwback to the sixties or earlier. At the risk of using a lazy comparison, at times The Interrogator reminded me of vintage Spillane – and not his Tiger Mann spy stuff, but the Mike Hammer books. And to me this is a great thing. I love hardboiled noir – Chandler, Spillane, Hammet – even Peter Corris. This story, while very definitely being a spy story, has the type of characters who would inhabit a noir novel. But it puzzles me somewhat in the way this book was marketed – or more specifically, why this particular cover design was chosen. There are no characters running around with semi-automatic rifles – nor are there people rappelling from helicopters. The cover dumbs down the story. It is actually a very good labyrinthine thriller.
I guess playing up the military aspect reflects more on author JJ Cooper than the content of the book. Cooper spent seventeen years in the Australian Army, at times as a member of the Australian Army Intelligence Corps.
The story starts with Jay Ryan, the Australian Army’s highest ranked interrogator in an interrogation room at a training base hidden away in the forests of the Gold Coast hinterland. But Ryan isn’t doing the interrogating. He is being interrogated. Brutally interrogated. He is wearing black-out goggles, handcuffs as is tethered to a metal chair. He has been badly beaten and remembers very little about the night before. Standing before Ryan is a fellow interrogator named Primrose – and his interrogation methods are not quite ‘by the book’. He is savagely assaulting a fellow officer while his wife Catherine watches on.
You see, Ryan had an affair with Catherine, and now it is payback time for Primrose. In fact it goes a little deeper than that. Primrose wants more that a measure of vengeance, he wants Ryan to assist him in some shady dealings. Naturally Ryan doesn’t want to help, but Primrose was a few bargaining chips hidden up his sleeve. The first is video footage of Ryan with Catherine – which looks more like a rape than a consensual affair (a little bit of role playing in the bedroom – Catherine likes it rough!) Primrose threatens to release the footage to the police. His other bargaining chip is that he has kidnapped Ryan’s father, and if Ryan does complete the tasks requested of him, he’ll never see his father alive again.
Meanwhile in Canberra, SIS Agent Sarah Evans is interrogating a criminal named Lazarau who has been arrested for selling stolen military secrets. Her investigation yeilds one lead – Lazarau names Jay Ryan as a contact. From there, Sarah relocates her investigation to Queensland where she intends to ‘interrogate the interrogator’. Naturally she gets more than she bargained for.
I won’t say much more than that because I don’t want to give too much away in my synopsis, as it will only ruin the story for others. Also due to the twists and turns, it is almost impossible to strip down an overview to a few simple paragraphs and do the story justice. Needless to say, it is a wild ride.
I must admit, when the chase begins in the story, I like the premise of the main character being an interrogator. It gives the story a certain dose of reality that many spy stories lack. Think about it; most spy stories are about obtaining information of some kind, and who better to get it than a man who specialises in extracting information from people who are unwilling to divulge their secrets.
Another aspect of this book that I like is that it is Australian and also set in Australia – the beauty though, is that it does not slap you in the face with famous tourist attractions and landmarks as a backdrop – there’s no Harbour Bridge, Opera House or even the Big Pineapple. The settings are believable. The story could be set anywhere, and still pack the same punch.
From JJ Cooper’s website:
According to Greek Mythology, Aphrodite had a wayward eye and a loyal son. When Eros gave Harpocrates a rose to keep quiet about his mother’s little indiscretions, the rose became a symbol for secrecy. This is a story Jay Ryan has never heard — until his hand is nailed to a table and a red rose tattooed onto his wrist.
Jay is an interrogator with a dark past and a tortured soul; he’s also the keeper of secrets Israeli spies will kill to get their hands upon. Renowned for his skills, he is used to commanding a certain level of respect amongst his peers. Then one day Jay is drugged, tortured, tattooed and accused of rape. He is forced to reveal information that could further destabilise fragile Middle East relations and plunge the entire region into war. They are secrets he has struggled to keep hidden for four years — proof that the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ knew Israeli Mossad agents removed chemical weapons from Iraq before the launch of the 2003 invasion.
After escaping his captors, Jay discovers that he is wanted for crimes he didn’t commit and that his father has been kidnapped by his own intelligence agency. No-nonsense secret agent Sarah Evans and lively retired security guard William ‘Bill’ Hunter join Jay on a quest to get his father back alive and avoid Israeli spies hell-bent on eliminating them all. Together they uncover the truth behind two spy agencies playing a high-stakes game of espionage with a ‘winner take all’ mindset. After Sarah goes missing, Jay must choose between hunting his father’s kidnappers or saving Sarah and exposing Israel’s involvement in the removal of chemical weapons from Iraq.
THE INTERROGATOR is a story of betrayal and nightmarish conspiracy firmly rooted in the highest levels of government across international alliances. The story rockets toward a shattering finale that will leave the survivors changed forever. Thriller fans will enjoy the colourful characters, twisting, turning plots and fast action. The authentic military details gives the story a chillingly real context, drawing the reader into Jay’s world and not letting us go until the very end.
Like so many people, when shopping for books (particularly new books), I like to know what I am going to get. I want value for money – don’t we all! Therefore at times I can be reticent to try out a new author. The problem with that though, is then I’d miss out on a lot of good fiction. JJ Cooper would be a case in point…as a debut author he hasn’t got ‘brand recognition’ like the big authors, but The Interrogator is a bloody good read. I recommend it highly and am eagerly waiting Jay Ryan’s next adventure.