My first five-star book for a while for a work which, while not in my most favoured genre, pressed all the right buttons and then some for what it is. So much so I actually enjoyed it.
Nick Stone is an agent running out of London. Sent to the USA on the heels of some members of the provisional IRA he is suddenly called off the case. He decides to visit an old friend and erstwhile companion-in-arms, but arrives to find him – and all his family bar one – brutally murdered. The lone survivor, a seven-year old girl, becomes his companion given Stone knows she must still be targeted as a witness, and so begins a frenzied running around trying to uncover the details of an event which sees him not only head-to-head with law enforcement in the USA, but also the target of terrorists, and someone his own command back home now regards as an outsider.
Stone is very much in the British tradition of such heroes, James Bond aside. If guns are drawn every five seconds and thousands of rounds fired in the course of much of American literature of the genre, when guns are pulled in Remote Control their bullets smash through flesh, bone, and internal organs making quite a difference to the recipient. Fist fights are messy affairs in which blood spatters and there are no gentlemen. None of which to say this is a gore novel, far from it. It is just that when there is violence, McNab doesn’t give it the comic-book feel of so much else that’s on offer. He makes it plain this is for real, lives really are at stake, and guns in real life aren’t just there for decorative effect or to go ‘bang bang bang bang bang bang bang’ from time to time to no ill effect in order to keep the tension high.
Stone himself is a sympathetic hero, certainly, but McNab doesn’t give him the good-guy treatment. Shortly after we’re introduced to him we’re told of a botched operation in which, to cover the British government’s backside, he was told to kill his own allies once the mission was successfully completed. Stone’s regret is there, but not marked. The only thing that makes Stone sympathetic in the end, perhaps, is that the bad guys are even bigger bastards than he is.
The plot treads carefully on the comprehensible side of convoluted. I think I lost the odd detail along the way, but nothing important enough that I wasn’t pretty sure what was happening throughout. McNab manages to keep the intrigue going without making it feel artificial as he does so.
All in all, without resorting to gratuitous carping, Remote Control is a page-turner of immense veracity, well-written and carefully crafted, worthy of its rare five stars.