A few months a go I reviewed JJ Cooper’s first novel The Interrogator. I made no secret that I really enjoyed it. I am actually hoping some of the readers here – particularly the Bond fans – will take the time to track the book down. I am interested in reader’s opinions on the climax of the story and if they believe there are any similarities between it, and Casino Royale. But that’s a discussion for another day – today I am looking at Cooper’s second book Deadly Trust.
I must admit I had some doubt about a second book by Cooper. Allow me to explain my reasoning. Cooper spent seventeen years in the army prior to writing The Interrogator, and one of the real strengths of that book, was the sense of ‘truth’ or ‘realism’ to the story. It was almost as if Cooper was revealing the secret knowledge that you should not know. This was not necessarily to do with the plot, but the nitty-gritty of intelligence gathering and HUMINT. Therefore, when reading the book, it became difficult to delineate where JJ Cooper ended and the character of Jay Ryan began.
Now I am sure that many of you have heard the old saying that you have your whole life to write your first book, but only a year to write your second. I thought that maybe Cooper had shown us all that he had – told us all his secrets – in his first book. Well, what can I say, I am an idiot. This is not the case at all. Cooper proves that he is a natural story-teller, and certainly has a lot more to give as a writer.
Deadly Trust begins about a year after the events of The Interrogator, which left Jay Ryan pretty badly shot up and even a little bit emotionally scarred. Since then he has been living in Byron Bay – keeping things simple.
The first sign of trouble occurs when he goes to get his car license renewed. Not much could happen in a Road Traffic Authority centre – could it? Well yeah – two gun men burst in and attempt to rob the place. Or so it seems. The strange thing is that they seem to be searching for a particular target. No prizes for guessing who?
The next incident occurs when Ryan is driving home after a late afternoon’s surfing at a local beach. On his way home, a four-wheel-drive vehicle attempts to ram his car into the path of an oncoming bus. After two attempts on his life in one day, Ryan suspects that these incidents are not simply coincidence, but someone is out to get him – but why? He has been living the simple life, out of harm’s way.
Ryan soon makes contact with a Military police officer, Toni Griffin, who is the cousin of Mark Simpson, a fellow Interrogator who served with Ryan in the Middle East. She explains that Simpson has been killed, as have three other interrogators that Ryan served with. What ties all these men together besides the fact that they were all interrogators that served in Afghanistan, is that they were inoculated against a rare and virulent strain of anthrax. It seems that someone is now very interested in Ryan, as the last interrogator and the anti-bodies that he is carrying in his body.
Deadly Trust is a wild ride that had me thumbing the pages well into the night. The story has more twists and turns than the ‘Mad Mouse’ at the fairground. But it is told with energy and pace and with just a hint of dry, laconic Aussie humour.
If I have a criticism of Deadly Trust, it once again takes place, primarily in Queensland – very much the same locations as The Interrogator – and pretty much the home territory for the character of Jay Ryan. In future Ryan adventures, I’d like to see him in less comfortable and familiar surroundings and see how in operates in less hospitable ‘theatres of war’. The news here however, is that it looks like my wish will be granted. In the closing of Deadly Trust, Cooper has set up a scenario in which Ryan can be moved out of his comfort zone – and possibly away from the shores of Australia.
Knowledge of the events in The Interrogator, though not essential, is rather handy. There are a few recurring characters, and more than one allusion to the events that transpired in the first novel. So I’d suggest that you track that down first and give that a shot…you wont be disappointed, and then you can follow it up with Deadly Trust… reading them back to back will not seem like overkill.
In closing, if you’ll forgive me, I want to hop on my soapbox for just a moment. I have heard that several major retailers in Australia are refusing to stock Deadly Trust. Let me stress that Deadly Trust is published by a major publisher – so it cannot be argued that it is a ‘nothing book’. The argument seems to be that in these tough economic times, these retailers want to stick with ‘safe’ releases from proven (for that – read ‘big name’) authors. Sorry, but how dare they tell me what I want to read! Now I like popular fiction as much as the next guy, and my shelves are stocked with many ‘name’ authors. Prior to reading Deadly Trust, I read multi-million seller, Dean Koontz’s Velocity which I thoroughly enjoyed, but if I had to recommend just one of them to you – it would be Deadly Trust. That’s not to dismiss Koontz, or piss in Cooper’s pocket, and maybe that’s just my proclivity for spy novels shining through. But after all if you are reading this – and Permission to Kill is a spy themed blog – I’d presume that you you enjoy spy stories too.
I guess the thing to take away from this is to buy your books from a book shop and not a department store. I know department stores are cheaper – and we all want to save money – but by shopping at these stores and having your purchases dictated to you, by some pompous clown in purchasing is unwittingly killing the Australian publishing industry (and I am sure this applies equally to some foreign markets). End of rant!
From the blurb:
Former army interrogator Jay Ryan is enjoying the quiet life after leaving the military far behind – or so he thinks. Because old habits die hard and he’s quickly thrust back into the thick of things when a disgruntled scientist, backed by the Australian security industry, develops a weapon of mass destruction – a hybrid strain of Anthrax – to be used to create panic in a population apathetic to crime prevention.
Only one batch of Anthrax inoculations can resist the deadly new strain, and it was given to five military interrogators. One of them was Jay Ryan. When the other four disappear, Ryan is the last interrogator left with the antibodies to defeat the deadly Anthrax strain.
Racing against time and hunted by rogue soldiers, mad scientists and an organisation that operates beyond the law, Ryan digs deep into his past for a chance at a future.
In this heartstopping thriller, Jay Ryan wages a one-man war against enemies both known and unseen. There’s only person he can trust – or can he? Winning the war may have devastating consequences for the last interrogator …
For those who are interested, you can download the first chapter from the Random House website – scroll down to Deadly Trust.