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Vengeance is Mine! draws from Smith’s experiences, following Detective Mark Kidder, a member of Alpha team – a secretive, armed police surveillance unit from 'The Dept'. The team is recruited by MI5 to track down Jason Phillips, an ex-British Army soldier who, after being left wounded and traumatised in Bosnia, has become a mercenary soldier and a suspected terrorist, and is now based in London.
Smith also explores the Balkan Wars of the 1990s as Alpha team discovers their target’s association with a legendary Bosnian Colonel – a hero-turned-mercenary with blood links in the UK – who has sworn to wreak vengeance on a renegade militia who ambushed and tortured his father.
The perceived addition of academic and class snobbery ensures the relationship between MI5 and 'The Dept' is not a smooth one, and the two organisations are pitted against each other. Pride, status, secrecy, inter-departmental and agency rivalries foster mistrust and jealousy in this thrilling story as dangerous secrets are revealed and Alpha team are forced to put their lives at risk.
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Review by Travis Starnes
I enjoy a good thriller and a good mystery and this book mixes the two genres up fairly well. The story follows Mark Kidder and the Alpha Team of “The Dept” as they track down a suspected terrorist and killer, and flashes back to related events set during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.
There are some really good things going for this book. The plot overall is well detailed and complex which works for this type of story. With multiple factions to follow including the Dept, the schemers in MI5, a serial killing terrorist, and a Bosnian Colonel out for blood there are a lot of threads to keep up with. For such a spread out plot and so many parties Smith does a good job of pulling all the pieces together at the end, not always a sure thing when the story gets this complex. The action also works well in. Smith’s background in the military and as a police officer does him a service. His action scenes are clear, fast paced, and exciting. He has a talent for writing action that will serve him well in future books.
As pleasingly complex as the plot comes off, the characters make up the best part of this book. Kidder is the classic policeman with the deadpan humor that you want from this archetype. He has just enough backstory and personality written into him that Kidder comes off well and works as the hero of the book. Unusual in a thriller the two main antagonists get as much back story as Kidder, with huge swaths of the book dedicated to intricately retelling Zoran’s history. By the time he comes into the A plot line there is no doubt what his motivation is. While Phillips has less “screen time” he is just as well completed and his neurosis give an interesting extra dimension that is fun to read. Most of the rest of the cast is fairly shallow, but that is to be expected from a thriller and the more than average attention paid to the two villains makes up for this in the long run.
The characters and overall plot aside this book suffers from one major flaw, the pacing is way off. Not in the way some books have poor pacing however. This was clearly an intentional choice on Smiths part; unfortunately it is a choice I cannot get behind. The first half of the book has the story jumping between the 1990s Balkan conflict and present day London. Even though the time the reader follows the Balkans war Smith was lovingly setting up Zoran, for which I just complimented him, the back and forth style he does it in is jarring. Just as you are getting invested in one story you are pulled to the second thread for a chapter, then back again. By the time the two plot lines merged I began having reading whiplash and had more or less devested myself of any serious interest in the main characters.
Part of the journey you go on with an author is connecting to his characters and feeling their emotional swings. A great book will have you feeling elation when the protagonist has the upper hand and depression when the plot turns against him. This visceral connection with the main character just did not happen in this book. There was too little continuous time spent with any one character to form that kind of bond.
This book is not completely devastated by the rotating plot. It has good characters, well written action scenes and the second half is a lot tighter and better to read. Unfortunately for me the changeover in the second half was too little, too late. It took what could have been a great book and pulled it down to just average. If you see it at an airport bookstore and you need something to read go ahead and get it, but don’t rush out otherwise. There are better options on the shelves.