Crisis Four by Andy McNab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After Remote Control, the first of McNab’s ‘Nick Stone’ novels, I wasted little time getting hold of the second. Crisis Four gets marked down a star on a technicality – the plot didn’t quite ring true in Stone being given his assignment in the first place, let alone the ease with which he accomplished the first part of it – and, indeed, much of the plot at the end rather depended upon him being the wrong person for the job. Still, I found it as much a pleasure to read as the first for all that.
In the first novel, our special operative Stone was saddled with a seven-year old girl throughout and, I must confess, I was rather pleased to see the back of her in this one. I find something somehow unfair about a seven-year old being dragged through violent and dangerous situations, even if she is fictional and has to be for the sake of the story. Then there’s the idea of good plans not coming together because she needs to go to the toilet that intrudes upon the action with too homely a tone. Once I could stand, but a second of the same I’d have probably been yelling ‘Shoot her and have done with it, damn it!’
However, the absence of Kelly is not the only marked difference between this novel and the last. That had action throughout. This takes a while to get going, but while we wait McNab really shows his chops as a writer and an expert in the craft of special operations. There are many ‘Don’t try this at home’ tips which would look good in any anarchist’s cook book, but also views of American life through the eyes of an Englishman that have immense veracity. McNab could probably try his hand at pretty-much anything and come up with a decent novel. He has an eye for things and can provide detail, even irrelevant detail, without it dragging. That’s quite a knack.
The action, when it comes, is of the sort where you can find yourself putting the book down and getting a cup of coffee just to take a break from it. McNab is an intelligent writer not above writing thrillers, and the genre benefits from that. Yeah, I know, his background, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have written historical fiction about the Napoleonic wars, does it? Indeed, he almost certainly could were he so inclined and it would be worth reading. (Yes, ashamed as I am to confess it given it doesn’t fit with the image, darlings, I am becoming something of a fan).
The plot, and I can say little without spoilers. However, if you’re familiar with Nick Stone from the first novel, it’s the same bloke. If you’re not, check the first novel before this one. They stand alone just fine, but the first novel provides a useful introduction.