Books: The Avenger

One measure of a good writer is his ability to hold your attention even when you already know how the book is going to turn out. I read Forsyth’s more recent book, The Cobra, not long ago, and I recognized the character Paul Devereaux when he first appeared in The Avenger. I hadn’t recognized Cal Dexter, but once the plot involved Derereaux also, I remember that both were characters in The Cobra.

I also remembered that The Cobra referred to their having previously been opponents rather than partners, and I realized I was reading the book that told that story. Dexter wants to bring a gangster, who among his many crimes cruelly killed a young American aid worker, to justice. Deveraux wants to use the man as a tool to bring down someone who he believes is an even great danger to American interests.

I knew which of the two would succeed, but I found the story still engrossing. How would Dexter try to achieve his goal? How would Devereaux work to stop him? To what lengths would each go, and what moral constraints would guide their actions? Devereaux is cold and calculating, convinced that the greater good he will accomplish justifies the lesser evil he must commit in the process. Only in retrospect do we find out what Dexter did – and didn’t – do in his own machinations.

Some of the reader reviews at amazon.com complain that the novel has too much backstory, slowing down the action, and that the characters are two one-dimensional. They say that some of his earlier novels – The Dogs of War, The Odessa File, andThe Day of the Jackal, are far better. That may well be true – I think I may have read The Day of the Jackal but I’m not sure, and I know I never read the other two. Perhaps I should add them to my reading list.

There is a fair amount of history included, primarily of Vietnam and what used to be Yugoslavia. To me this is a plus but to some readers it could be a minus. There are some pretty gruesome deaths. (These bothered me surprisingly little, perhaps because they occur early in the novel to characters I felt little attachment to.) There are times when I would definitely not be in the right mood to read this. But on a hot weekend it was the right book to sit in the air conditioning and enjoy.

One Response to Books: The Avenger

  1. modestypress says:

    I read your blog posts when they appear, but have not had much reason to comment. Sometimes you choose to read a book I recommend, so I will mention one that I am enjoying and appreciating a great deal and will recommend to our library’s “If Everyone [on Whidbey Island] read the same book” campaign for the coming year. [I am participating on the nominating committee.]

    The title of the book is THE BIG BURN by Timothy Egan. It is a non-fiction book with great narrative drive that holds my interest and attention like a fine novel. It describes the Great Yellowstone Fire of 1910. It’s a “manly” book in that it describes adventure, heroism, conflict, dramatic rescues and terrible deaths. There are a number of “heroes,” but the two main ones are the fascinating men, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Pinchot. It is also a “chick flick” appeal book in that for both men lost their first loves (who died young) and both men mourned these women in stoic silence all their lives. Pinchot in fact for many years went into the woods and held mystical conversations with his love’s spirit and felt she was guiding him.

    The Amazon reviews of the book are for the most part, very positive.

    Egan, to my sensibility, writes with great skill, and has the ability to capture the essence of a person, place, event, or situation in a few paragraphs. I know you have a lot of books on your reading list (as usual), but as usual if you do get a chance to read it (and are interested), I would look forward to reading your review with interest (as always).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: