Ghost by James Swallow - book review

Ghost by James Swallow
Ghost by James Swallow
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At the end of the year in which the world had a rude awakening to the threat posed by internet espionage, why not welcome in 2019 with a new jaw-dropping adventure from the master of the cyber thriller.

James Swallow – dubbed Britain’s answer to Jason Bourne – is ready to blow our minds again with Ghost, the explosive, high-octane follow-up to his runaway best-sellers Nomad and Exile, starring computer geek, hacker extraordinaire and fearless action man Marc Dane.

A scriptwriter and veteran author with over 750,000 books currently in print around the world, Swallow was BAFTA-nominated for his writing on the critically acclaimed role-playing video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and this is a man who knows how to translate his words into fast-paced, breathtaking visual action.

His cyber hero Dane is an ex-military serviceman and former MI6 agent who nurses an icy fury for the digital terrorists who want to spread fear and panic, and line their own pockets, by bringing an increasingly vulnerable world to its knees.

Dane’s mission has taken him into the darkest corners of the web, across the globe, and through deadly danger and tragic loss, and now he faces his most terrifying case yet.

Booted out of MI6 and still haunted by a terrible tragedy, Marc Dane now works for an undercover section of the Rubicon Group, a conglomerate owned by enigmatic African billionaire Ekko Solomon, a man on a mission to tackle cyber threats that nation states are either unwilling or unable to oppose. Rubicon has a strict moral code and Dane has willingly signed on to be a part of it.

When Lex Wetherby, a member of a covert group called Ghost5 – an elite team of hackers who hire out their skills – is assassinated in Malta, Dane and team-mate Kara Wei are called away from France where they are tracking a woman linked to a shady and amoral hacking organisation called Combine.

Financed by rich and powerful people, Combine is manipulating the unending War on Terror, stoking the fires of a fearful world, and reaping the monetary rewards.

Now a shocking betrayal has triggered a deadly pursuit across a digital battlefield and the target is a ruthless terrorist fuelled by revenge.

As devastating attacks unfold across the globe, Dane, with crack shot sniper Lucy Keyes at his side, must call on his skills and ingenuity to track down the mysterious figure behind it all… a faceless, power-hungry criminal known only as Madrigal.

If they don’t succeed, the world could be plunged into war…

Swallow hits the ground running in this exhilarating, jet-setting and terrifyingly relevant thriller with a gripping opening chase on the historic streets of Malta which moves like lightning and sets the pace for a plot full of violence, skulduggery, and digital ghosts.

Dane is the ultimate internet whizz, thoroughly at home with code crunching, digital notepads, data cables, radio beads and ASP air-weight batons, but still learning the trade when it comes to wielding a weapon and going in for the kill.

As each book progresses, we learn more and more about the team that surrounds Dane – not least his kick-ass, ex-Delta Force love interest Lucy Keyes. What makes these characters tick, their motivations, their fears and their secrets are all part of the fuel that fires these stories and turns digital espionage into a full-on, all-action adventure.

And yet, despite the thrill of these hi-tech adventures, there is a very real warning hidden between the lines that makes reading these books a salutary experience… the world’s increasing reliance on smart technology is far more threatening, and far more dangerous, than anyone could once have imagined.

(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)