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Pandemic Reviews

These reviews were submitted on www.amazon.co.uk and elsewhere on the Internet, and have been edited only to correct spelling mistakes. At the moment the book has a four-star rating on Amazon.co.uk, so I'm pretty happy!

"Unfortunately, I have to disagree with the other reviewers here. I found the novel slow and unnecessarily detailed. I am sure those who have an in depth of knowledge about life on a warship will have appreciated it, but for most it is just plain boring. I think my greatest disappointment was the ending - and it takes a long time to get there! Clearly I am not going to discuss the details of it here as that would be unfair to potential readers. But while Barrington might have an in depth knowledge of helicopters and all things naval, his medical information lets him down badly. Overall, it is an OK book if you have lots of time to spare. Frankly, it could have, and should have been, squeezed into half the number of pages."

"I was drawn to Pandemic because of the Merlin helicopter on the front cover - one I'm fairly familiar with as I fly that particular aircraft for the Royal Navy (actually on the Squadron mentioned in the book). I'm usually somewhat dubious when I see military hardware emblazoned on the front of a fictional novel as it usually disappoints with technical and factual inaccuracies revealing either a lack of real knowledge or a 'sexing-up' of something only vaguely related to the truth.
        I'm pleased to say Pandemic suffers none of these afflictions. Barrington's descriptions of life on board an aircraft carrier are as accurate as you are going to see in any work of fiction. The characterizations are spot-on, interactions are exactly as you would expect and descriptions of life on a working, front-line warship are documentary-accurate - clearly this novel has been written by someone who was an active member of a carrier air group and is able to describe confidently a subject for which he clearly has extensive, hands-on knowledge. I could (and did) pick some small holes in some of the techniques employed by the Merlin Anti-Submarine crews but to be perfectly honest, the only people able to do that would be Merlin crews themselves so I wouldn't let it put you off - it works in the context of the story (plus some of it is secret anyway so he probably couldn't tell either!!)
        All in all a superb read, like other reviewers below, finished in less than a week and I eagerly await the next instalments.
        PS For avid aircraft spotters: some copies apparently have a picture of a Lynx on the front, not a Merlin... "

"Firstly, Pandemic was a great read.
        It's somewhat different to Overkill (Barrington's first novel) in tempo for part of the first half of the book. Obviously there's action in the first half around Richter (the main character in the Barrington novels to date) but the pace really quickens up in the second half when Richter arrives in Crete. From then on, I very quickly got to the point of not wanting to put it down till I'd finished! I was a bit blown away by the ending - especially the epilogue. I didn't expect that deadly twist of reality one bit.
        Barrington's action writing style is excellent - making it compelling enough to want to continue until finished. And not many authors are able to achieve that with me! Even when reading Ludlum in the past I've seen myself start a book one holiday and then finish it several months later on another holiday. Both of Barrington's novels were started and finished within less than a fortnight.
        I was slightly less keen on one or two of the earlier sections in the book - where I felt things were going a bit slowly (compared with Overkill). And I felt at these times slightly less compelled to read every word. But as that accounted for less than 1% of the pages in the book I can forgive Barrington's desire to make the scenes as realistic as possible. Which again is one of his strengths as a writer.
        Pandemic is a superb, stimulating and satisfying read. And when I finished it at about 1am in the morning last Saturday - there were so many things going around my head that I just couldn't sleep properly that night!
        And the good news is that Barrington is already at work on another Richter novel. The bad news for me is that it wont be published for another 10 months or so."
 

"The second book I read was excellent and is a must-read if you like a Tom Clancy style story - Pandemic by James Barrington This will keep you guessing to the end and is a book you can not put down."
 

"The review below is such an excellent summary of this book that I was almost tempted not to bother writing a review myself. But..

        This is another top quality thriller from an emerging talent. This is a lot more detailed then his previous novel, Overkill, and on occasion there is a little too much. I have also noted that ex-pilots tend to talk us through every aspect of flying a plane, we are not trainees, we're only readers!

        Those are very minor gripes and should not put you off a thoughtful, well paced thriller. The lead character, Richter, is an absolute gem as is his relationship with his boss, Simpson.

        I have read so many thrillers that I am not often surprised and I can normally see where the plot is going and guess the outcome. Not this one! There is a real 'wow' moment at the end.

        This is a really strong book and it should elevate Barrington to the very top of the league. "
 

 

"Pandemic is the follow up to Overkill, James Barrington's debut novel. As with Overkill the nominal hero of the book is Paul Richter, a former Royal Navy pilot who now works for the Foreign Operations Executive, a fictional branch of the British Secret Service tasked with covert action.

        Apart from sharing a lead character however, Pandemic bears little similarity to Overkill. The latter was a highly energetic, 'race against time' thriller where the pace was unrelenting. As a debut it grabbed the reader and held their attention firmly. By contrast Pandemic is a far more thoughtful book and in comparison to its predecessor the pace is slower.

        That's not a criticism though; merely an observation that readers of Barrington's previous book should be aware of going in. Pandemic is still an excellent thriller. It is also far more of a mystery than Overkill. It opens with the discovery by a Greek diver of a American Government owned private jet that crashed in the Med in 1972. Investigating the wreck the diver discovers several dead bodies and a number of sealed flasks in a briefcase. Back at home on Crete, he opens one of these flasks and within twelve hours succumbs to a hideous death that bears similarities to an attack by the Ebola virus. What follows is a race by different authorities. On one side are medical professionals desperate to discover what killed the diver and his nephew, who also died in similar circumstances. On another are parts of the CIA keen to cover up their links to these events, whilst other members of the same organisation seek the truth behind what's happening and uncover secrets dating back three decades. Caught up in all this is Richter, sent by his bosses to discover exactly what is happening and why.

        Unlike Overkill the action in Pandemic doesn't really kick into gear until Richter hits Crete halfway through the novel. In fact Richter's involvement in the central plot doesn't begin until that point. Up until then he is sidelined on an aircraft carrier in the Med, having embarrassed his superiors on mission in Italy. The opening chapters instead deal with setting up the story via the discovery of the aircraft and the deaths of the two Greeks and various parties reactions to both events. Barrington handles this stage of the story well.

        Events are logical and responses to them are realistic. Faced with an unknown pathogen for example, the Cretans call in the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) from the US, which you would expect would happen in real life. Threatened by the discovery of the plane and its contents those behind events back in the '70's don't panic but begin a methodical clean up operation.

        This illustrates one of Barrington's strengths; logical plotting. He doesn't resort to flights of wild fancy in order to move the story along. Characters do not act irrationally or out of character simply for the sake of the plot. The events develop in an entirely believable fashion, backed up by a wealth of information regarding the procedures and processes different organisations follow.

        Bringing me to the author's other strength; detail. Barrington obviously knows his stuff and has done a significant amount of research. Events are supported by solid fact, lending them extra credence. Sometimes he can go into just a little too much detail but on the whole he strikes just about the right balance as the mystery deepens and dead bodies begin to pile up.

        Which should reassure action fans that this is not a dry, cerebral mystery novel. With CIA hit teams wandering around Crete, once Paul Richter gets involved the pace picks up rapidly. As he showed with Overkill, Barrington has a talent for writing action. He also refuses to shy away from the unpleasantness of it all. In Richter's world people, including the hero, have a tendency to shoot first and keep shooting. Torture is a legitimate tool on both sides and innocent people die because they're expendable.

        Through all this Richter moves like a force of nature. Pandemic expands the character substantially; providing more background on the man. His cynical attitude towards authority remains, but we begin to understand where it comes from. We see his moral code in action as he seeks revenge on a former adversary but realise that, despite his apparent loner image, he is capable of making and retaining friendships. With the slower pace of Pandemic Barrington is able to add significant layers to an already compelling character.

        He is also able to establish a number of possible plot strands for the future. This is just a suspicion of course, but it would not be surprising if some of the events Richter finds himself caught up in early in the book come back to haunt him in future novels.

        That's hoping there are future novels, because James Barrington is proving to be original and entertaining author. With his depth of knowledge and skills as a storyteller, combined with an apparent willingness to try new approaches rather than churn out the same type of book time and again, he is a welcome addition to the canon of techno-thriller writers. He has also come up with a book that contains one of the best 'conspiracy reveals' in recent memory and a twist that I doubt many people will predict ahead of time. For that alone Pandemic deserves five stars."
 

 

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Last modified: Tuesday, 27 January 2009