Published by Mandevilla Press on 4/1/2014
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The Battle of Beirut is worse than Hell, an irrational maelstrom of implacable hatreds and inconceivable suffering, of screaming bombs and exploding shells, crashing buildings, sniper battles, and deadly ambushes. Neill, a war correspondent on a secret mission for Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, is trying to find Mohammed, a Hezbollah terrorist leader who may be willing to stop the slaughter and destruction.
André, a French commando, is also looking for Mohammed, to kill him in revenge for the death of his brother, blown up with over 400 US Marines and French paratroopers by Hezbollah. For Rosa, a remorseless and passionate Palestinian guerrilla, Mohammed is one of the few hopes left for her people, and she will give her life to protect him. And for lovely Anne-Marie, André is the only one who can rescue her from Hell.
Based on Bond’s own experiences in Lebanon, Syria and the Middle East, Holy War has been praised for its portrayal of battle and its journalistic and political realism, and for its evocative descriptions of men and women caught in a deadly crossfire.
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Holy War has an interesting premise, and Mike Bond seems to have a much stronger understanding of the region, both through the lens of understanding terrorism and the understanding the culture in general, than most of the thrillers set in the Middle East that I have read previously.
The story structure is one that I’ve seen before in more general fiction, but not nearly as often in Thrillers. The jumping between protagonists or in some cases antagonist and not just giving you their POV but presenting it in a way that is sympathetic to that character is something I enjoyed. I should give a word warning that some of the characters and viewpoints might turn off some readers. I, however, read a lot of thrillers and was happy to get characters outside the usual cookie cutter mold.
I should also say that the structure, while interesting, has its issues. The decision to jump POVs often happens just as the story heads to a notable point, usually involving action. It happens enough that there are times when I would throw up my hands and say ‘oh come on’ out loud.
The pacing is fine once you get into the book, but is a bit slow to start. It takes the plot a little while to reveal itself. While the book opens with action, that action isn’t directly connected to the plot so does little more than whet the appetite for the reader before delaying serving anything up. I am all for building characters, but I’d like to have seen it done while advancing the plot, and not putting the plot on hold for it.
The biggest sin of this book, however, is the writing style. Bond isn’t a bad writer, but I’m amazed an editor let his stylistic decision go by. For some reason, Bond decided to have nearly every paragraph or so the book would stop and present a staccato list of mood setting actions or descriptions. While this works when used sparingly, its near continuous use made the book nearly impossible to enjoy and increasingly difficult to not get pulled out of the narrative. The ‘description’ comma ‘description’ comma ‘description’ presentation quickly becomes annoying in the extreme.
There is a good idea here, but in story and structure, but sadly neither are pulled off well and then further hurt by writing choices that make the book even harder to read. I could not, in good conscience, recommend anyone read this book.