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.
"Firstly, Pandemic was a great read.
"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
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