Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review: Amongst My Enemies by William F. Brown

Amongst My EnemiesAt the end of World War II a German submarine U-582 slipped into the Baltic Sea on a top-secret mission for the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany, never to be heard from again. Only Michael Randall, a battle-scarred American who survived four months in the frozen Hell of northern Germany, knows where it is. When the U-boat's captain turned up a few years later as an up-and-coming NATO official, Randall decided it was time for him to go back to the Baltic to find proof about a high-ranking spy inside NATO itself and take revenge for the atrocities that cost his best friend his life. He and his team are not alone in the Swedish waters though: the U-boat's former owners want their gold and the Russians want the identity of their spy to stay a secret, so Michael Randall better watch his back.

I've never read any spy novels before now so when Mr. Brown contacted me asking to review Amongst My Enemies I was happy to explore this new-to-me genre, especially since his writing credits were encouraging. I'm glad to say the book did not disappoint.
Amongst My Enemies is a tightly-woven thriller with practically non-stop action and characters who are easy to care about or dislike. As I read and saw how different threads of the story were coming together I began to enjoy the book even more and soon I didn't want to put it down - I wanted to see if the bad guys were going to get what they deserved and of course if Randall would have the guts to get the girl. There was a point when I though I knew what was going to happen (the short paragraph before chapter 1 spoiled that secret) and although I was right about the outcome the "how" took me by surprise. I did not expect the story to take the turn it did and that is always a good sign. That was just one of the many twists and turns and although I grew to anticipate them they did not become less satisfying.
There was a lot of action in this book and I'm pleased to say that those scenes were done well and were balanced with more low-key scenes that allowed for character development. It was fun to watch the spunky Leslie boss Michael around, or try to anyway, and seeing the antagonists during relative down time made them more human, if not less evil.
As engaging as the book is the copy I received is in dire need of a thorough proof-reading - the awkward punctuation, missing spaces between words and descriptions that repeated word for word time after time didn't do the novel any favors. Had a careful copy-editor gone through the manuscript and eliminated all the distractions I would have given the book a higher rating. And one more thing that has nothing to do with proof-reading but it ruffles my feathers because everyone, including NPR, does it: why is it always "the Ukraine"? It's one country, not a collection of states or territories, so just like Uganda, Uruguay and Uzbekistan it doesn't get a "the". It's just "Ukraine"! I'm from there, I know.
If you enjoy spy novels with compelling characters and a fast-moving plot I'm sure you'll like this book, especially if it gets a little TLC in the copy-editing department.

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