Alex Gherzo's Reviews > Bad Company

Bad Company by Jack Higgins
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's review
Mar 26, 2012

really liked it
Read from March 20 to 26, 2012

** spoiler alert ** The first several books in the Sean Dillon series by Jack Higgins are excellent action thrillers, with great plots and characters. Then there was lull. Day Of Reckoning, Edge Of Danger and Midnight Runner were Higgins on autopilot. The plots were okay, but the characters were flat and the dialogue was awful. They were serviceable if you needed and action fix, but didn't reach the heights of their predecessors. The only saving grace, in fact, was Dillon himself. It was as though Higgins wrote for Dillon himself and someone else took care of the rest of the books. Luckily, Dillon is such a wonderful character that the books are still worth reading. I'm happy to say that Bad Company, the eleventh book in the series, is a return to form for Higgins. This is a terrific Sean Dillon adventure, albeit with a few minor flaws.

Towards the end of World War II, Adolph Hitler sent Baron Max von Beger, a young sturmbahnführer (roughly the equivalent of a major) in the SS -- though never an official member of the Nazi party -- on a mission to the West. He was given access to a vast amount of wealth and Hitler's personal diary, which contained a shocking secret. Von Berger was to surrender, serve time and eventually be let free, then use the resources given to him by his Führer to further their cause in the future. Today, the Baron is an old, wealthy man who makes even more money from weapons dealing throughout the world. After the events of the previous novel, Midnight Runner, he takes control of the Rashid empire and sets in motion a plan to bring down the American Presidency and destroy the men responsible for killing Kate Rashid and her brothers. As per usual, the only man who can stop him is former IRA terrorist and current British operative Sean Dillon.

Spoilers follow...

The first thing about Bad Company that struck me was how much care was put into the non-Dillon characters. Von Berger's history is told in a 90-plus-page flashback. After the last few books, I was dreading so much time spent away from Dillon, but it turned out to be a gripping account of the man's life. The Baron's last days as a young SS officer really humanize him in a way that Higgins didn't bother with for the last few villains. He may be evil, but he's also a man who lost his family and spent the rest of his life desperately trying to find a new one. He loved a woman romantically, but just as he was about to commit to her, she left him. He began to love Kate Rashid as though she were his daughter, but she was taken from him by force. And when he finally meets his son, he is overjoyed to have a family again but discovers that he has brought evil into this world. Von Berger is much more a tragic figure than a Snidely Whiplash.

If von Berger is a sympathetic villain, Marco Rossi serves as the despicable monster whom everyone wants Dillon to destroy. He represents the legacy of the Nazis, as well as of modern day Muslim terrorists. Von Berger, although he isn't technically a Nazi, is overjoyed to be chosen by Hitler to continue his works. Later, when the Rashids are killed, he takes up their mantel as well and tries to further their cause. It's no accident that, just as he's about to bring his plans to fruition, his long-lost son comes into his life to help him bring about his machinations. Everything he's wanted his whole life is here, and it's not what he envisioned. Just as Hitler and the Rashids, the people to whom he was loyal, would only bring about evil, his son turns out to be a sociopath who would murder an old lady and kill other innocent people if it suited him. He can't trust Rossi, just as Nazis and terrorists can't be trusted. And in the end, it's all too much for him.

General Ferguson, the man in charge of the Prime Minister's private army, is also fleshed out this time. We learn about an adventure from his youth, and how his act of heroism cost him the woman he loved. Dillon and company gain a newfound respect for the general, and Dillon now sees him not only as his superior or the guy who railroaded him into fighting for the crown, but as a fellow soldier, a man in whose hands he can entrust his life. Ferguson has always been a cool character, but something of a cipher. In Bad Company, he comes to life.

Some interesting things happen with our hero in this book as well. Sean Dillon is always cool, calm, completely in command. But this time he really starts to lose it, and it comes from his dealings with Sara Hesser. He first does one of the darkest things he's ever done while playing for the good guys when he shakes her with memories of the SS to get her to cooperate. While he's doing it he hates himself, and to make up for it, he promises her that he will protect her, that no harm will come to her. Then she's murdered. Dillon isn't someone who fails... well, ever, and to see him unable to uphold his promise to this woman is a bit jarring, for him and for the reader. Dillon isn't his cool self from that point out. He's got a lust for vengeance that causes him to make rash decisions, to such an extent that Ferguson even considers dropping him from his employ entirely. Higgins does this very well, as he manages to bring out this side of Dillon while still including all the things we love about him: humor, charm and a willingness to circumvent procedure, kill a bad guy and be happy about it (much to Superintendent Hannah Bernstein's chagrin), all sprinkled with a healthy dose of Bushmill's Irish whiskey. Even in the lesser books, Higgins knew how to write Dillon, and as of book eleven, he's still got it.

There were a couple of things I didn't like about the book. First, the subplot of Ferguson getting a tracking device implanted into him. The problem is that he has it done minutes before the bad guys decide to kidnap him. Literally, minutes! That's a little too convenient for my taste. It would've been better if he had it done in the beginning, that way it wouldn't look like quite as much of a plot device. It still would've been convenient, I guess, but it'd be much easier to take if the two events were spaced out a little. More egregious, though, is the climax. One thing for which this series can always be counted on is a good comeuppance for the bad guys. Sean Dillon is a big believer in justice, and he always makes his enemies pay for their crimes. And this time they set it up like never before. Dillon absolutely DESPISED Rossi! He wanted to kill him like he's wanted to kill few others. And Rossi wanted to face Dillon as well. Higgins built up the confrontation for much of the book, then in the end they didn't face off. I sort of understand the point of having the Baron kill himself and his son; he's finally realized his son's evil nature, and that of his own life's work, and he couldn't bear it anymore. But I'd rather they did something like have him realize this and give his son's location to the good guys so Dillon could find him and give him the violent death he so richly deserved. Ultimately, the rest of the novel was strong enough that this didn't ruin it, but I did decide to take off a star because of it.

I love the Sean Dillon series. Even the lesser entries are worth a read. And Bad Company, despite a couple of missteps, is a really good one.

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