BLINK AND YOU'RE DEAD.
Ben Coes. Looking for a realistic thriller? You've come to the wrong place. From laughable research errors to action sequences which are like an artillery barrage against the laws of physics, do not expect something like Brad Taylor or Stephen England when reading his books. What his Dewey Andreas series does offer however is over the top fun. His work is what would happen if you combine fun factor of Matthew Riley, the writing style of Ernst Hemingway and the politics of Brad Thor. Like an 80's action movie, the Andreas series is best enjoyed by snapping your suspension of disbelief in advance. Before Russia crashed into Ukraine and Islamic terrorism reared its ugly head once more in the form of Daesh, the People's Republic of China was becoming the threat of choice for spy thriller novelists. Along with Alex Berenson's "The Ghost Agent "Tom Clancy's Threat Vector (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, DID A REVIEW), "Eye For An Eye" focuses on Modern China in the post 9/11 world. Now to the review. What would be the worst thing to happen if you annoyed a spymaster?
The novel begins in the basement of a London mansion to an event alluded to in book 3. Dewey Andreas and a friend of his are busy torturing the Iranian ambassador to the UN. He happened to know the identity of an asset cultivated by Chinese foreign intelligence, one which was lent to the Iranians. They succeeded and the asset gets his employment at Mossad cut short from a vengeful Israeli special forces operative hacking him to death with an axe. While this is happening, the DCI and the directors generals of the SIS and Mossad hatch upon the "genius" idea of shipping the corpse of the asset back to his handler. They do and what happens creates a stir during a birthday party in Zhongnanhai, Beijing. It also pisses off Fao Bhang, Minister for state security and one of the three most powerful men in China. Knowing the "package" was meant as a cheap trick by his enemies to knock him down a notch, he decides to get even and after a bit of investigation, decides to target Dewey Andreas, the man who burned the Ministry's most important asset. He arranges to have Andreas killed in Argentina where he's vacationing with his fiancée, Jessica Tanzer. As you would expect, the wrong target gets hit. And what results in a series of escalating events, is a face off between a crazed former Delta Force operators and the leader of Asia's best foreign intelligence service, played out on the world stage.
In terms of plot "Eye For An Eye" goes farther than the previous book. More action, thrills and improved pacing. From the offices of China's MSS to a gunfight across the arrivals area of Lisbon International airport, the bullets fly as fast as you can turn the pages. This book is about brute force and blows apart subtlety with the force of a jetliner full of semtex. While Coes isn't known for his research, he's got a very good imagination. The men at the Ministry Of State security and the well equipped shooters they deploy are very fun to watch and perhaps the best part of the book. They may be equipped with different kit in real life but this book is about the fun factor, not realism.
Characters? Five standouts.
First, Dewey Andreas. Ben Coes is very good at letting us see a different side of his main character in each of his books. This time? It's Dewey's crazy side which comes full front and center. Yes, he's off his rocker but actually, lot more lively compared to the previous books when he's either filled with depression, self-loathing and guilt. In this book, he takes the idea of a "one man army" and runs with it. From a crazy foray into Beijing's Capital Airport and a large set-piece on the highway leading into downtown Lisbon, Coes does not hold back when it comes to writing situations which would get mere mortals killed a thousand times over.
Next, Derek Chalmers, director general of the SIS. Unlike his more idealistic American counterpart, Chalmers is a properly good spymaster, despite being one of the responsible parties in causing the mess that ensures during the book. He's willing to take risks, is at peace with the decisions he makes and is the one who wants to get Andreas in a position to kill the main antagonist despite the DCI's dithering. It's like he knows Dewey will survive and wanted to hurry things along. With him is Veronica Smythson, who runs operations at the SIS. Despite having limited time, Coes made her into a affable but tough-as-nails intelligence officer with a menacing edge. She's a dab hand with a SIG-Sauer P226 which is rather revealing. I hope she appears with her boss in a future book because they (almost) nearly stole the show from the other characters.
Then, there is the main antagonist, Fao Bhang. He stole the show. It might sound strange but I did sympathize with this guy. Look at it this way. He's a professional spymaster acting for the interests of his country and his overseas enemies decide to bring him down, by eliminating an asset whom he has spent years cultivating. So understandably, he tries to fight back. He didn't ask or start the small war that ensures in the book. It was the SIS, Mossad and Dewey's friend, the DCI who did with their genius idea and allowed the main character to get targeted. He was a great character and has so much potential for future books, but unfortunately, it was not to be.
Finally, there's Premier Li. Coes surprises with a decent portrayal of a Chinese politician. Practical, realistic, pretty likable and not a fool, he's more than a match for his spymaster and at the end of the book, outplays the surviving antagonists.
Now, after the first two books, I've grown accustomed to the author's tendency to leave his books littered with research errors and implausibilities. I'm no longer annoyed as much but there were some in this book which were astonishingly bad. I'll just leave with three. Firstly, the author put a manual safety catch on a Glock 19. It was an error so simple that it could have been avoided. Glocks only have their modified trigger/internal safeties and as someone who trained on the Glock 19, that is a bit of a slap in the face. Secondly, at one point, the MSS are moving in on Dewey inside a London mansion after a cocktail party. Problem is, the Chinese Ambassador happens to be sitting in as the op takes place. I'll repeat this again, THE CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO BRITAIN, a HIGH VALUE DIGNITARY, situated a few hundred meters away from a elite special forces veteran out to murder anyone connected with the PRC political/intelligence establishment. The ambassador had no training, no required expertise and there was already a man from the MSS London station in the room overseeing the operation. That intelligence officer even lampshades how unnecessary it is for the ambassador to be sitting in on the op. If I had been the MSS London station chief, I would have had the ambassador thrown into the back of a armored Mercedes S-Class and zipped off to the protection of the PRC Embassy ASAP. As you would expect, it does not go well for the ambassador when Mr Andreas walks into the room with a Heckler and Koch MP7 PDW. Secondly, Mr Coes issues Chinese law enforcement with the Beretta Cx4 carbine, something any Tom, Dick and Harry would know is most certainly not standard issue. The author even equipped one of the MSS shooters with the actual standard assault rifle for the PRC armed services and law enforcement, the QBZ-95. Why he didn't with the Chinese law enforcement shall remain a mystery. There are others like these two but I wouldn't finish this review if I listed them all.
Overall, my verdict on the book is this. Looking for a well researched, story with realism, plausibility and accurate technical details? Look elsewhere to authors like Brad Taylor, Mark Greaney's Tom Clancy books and Stephen England. But if you couldn't care less and just want the fastest paced entertainment possible, accuracy and plausibility be damned, Ben Coes delivers in spades. His books have more killing, twists and espionage shenanigans than most Brad Thor novels. Have a long flight to a holiday? Imprisoned in some boring engagement you never wanted to attend? The Dewey Andreas series delivers freedom from boredom in a storm of blood and explosions.