Appetite For Risk by Jack Leavers #BookReview #BlogTour

A fast-paced action thriller inspired by real events in the aftermath of the Iraq War.   With Saddam Hussein deposed and an entire country in need of rebuilding, former Royal Marine John Pierce hears the siren call of adventure and opportunity. His fledgling UK business is struggling to support his young family and he has connections in the Iraqi capital - fate seems to point one way.   In early 2004, Pierce rolls the dice when he jumps into a taxi in Jordan and heads for the turmoil of postwar Baghdad to grab a share of the reconstruction gold rush. But when Iraq spirals into the hell of a full-blown insurgency, he must rely on his wits and his local friends if he's to evade the rampant bloodshed.   As the action rolls across the blood-stained Iraqi landscape and embraces London's seedy underbelly, Pierce tangles with the authorities at home and finds himself thrust into the heart of British and American covert operations against Al-Qaeda in Iraq.   Having set out with little more than ambitious goals and an appetite for risk, can a determined ex-bootneck survive the mounting chaos unscathed and succeed in hitting the jackpot?

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Appetite For Risk today. Many thanks to Jack Leavers, Book Guild and Emma Welton from damppebbles Blog Tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

Although Appetite For Risk is a work of fiction, Jack Leavers borrows heavily from his own experiences and the first person narrative means that John Pierce's accounts of his exploits could easily be believed to be a memoir, such is the authenticity of the writing.
The book is effectively a story written in three parts; the first part finds John in Basra, Iraq in November 2004 and almost immediately there is a real sense of how unpredictable and therefore potentially dangerous the country is. After leaving the relative safety of the British military base, he suddenly finds himself in a situation which left me with my heart in my mouth. A little later on and he finds himself in another terrifying confrontation. As somebody who is about a far from a thrill-seeker as it's possible to be, I found it fascinating to follow John's thought-processes as he has to weigh up his practical need for improved finances coupled with his being drawn to a high-risk lifestyle with his guilt over his absences from his wife and family and the undoubted toll his experiences have exerted on his mind and body.
This is further explored in the middle and longest section of the novel which is set in the preceding ten months and explains how he came to be delivering a handwritten letter to Sheikh Mustafa, the Deputy President of the Basra Trade Chamber.  Like many former servicemen, he had worked on the close protection circuit in London where he struck up a friendship with Mohammed, a British-Iraqi driver. After the Iraq War ended, the pair discuss setting up a business in Baghdad, hoping to invest in any reconstruction opportunities. John needs to assess the possibilities first-hand and so travels over there to take a look and to meet with potential investors or business partners. John's paranoia in certain situations is understandable given the increasingly volatile state of affairs - the real-life kidnapping and brutal murder of US national, Nicholas Berg is mentioned and is a stark reminder of the very real danger. This isn't one of those stories where the hero manages to implausibly survive against all the odds and bounces back from what should be life-changing injuries. It's a measured, entirely believable novel which uses the tension of what could happen really effectively and consequently Appetite For Risk is far more gripping and nailbiting than a more straightforward all-out action thriller.
Much of the middle section is also set in the UK and allows readers to understand a little more about John's family dynamics and how his work affects his wife and daughters. There were moments here which seemed to be taking him away from the focus of the main plot but part three draws everything together brilliantly as John's risky dealings and often dubious decisions result in him having to go back to Iraq as he becomes involved in a highly dangerous covert operation. This is real heart-in-mouth stuff and is made all the more authentic by the vivid descriptions of Iraq which bring the country to life. The use of military terms,  both official and colloquial also adds a sense of realism to the proceedings, as does the bootneck humour scattered throughout the book.
I was impressed by Appetite For Risk - it is a well-plotted, believable action thriller with an engaging protagonist in John Pierce and an excellent cast of supporting characters. The depiction of the Middle East is superb and Jack Leavers successfully reflects the complicated political, social and religious complexities there whilst also recognising that many of the citizens are generous, intelligent and witty people despite everything they are forced to deal with. The balance between the harder hitting scenes and lighter moments is just right throughout, and the conclusion raised a smile and ensured I'm looking forward to discovering what lies in store for John Pierce next.

Appetite For Risk is published by Book Guild and can be purchased from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Waterstones, Foyles, Nook, Google Books or Hive.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Jack Leavers is a former Royal Marine with over thirty-years’ experience spread across the military, private security, corporate investigations, maritime counter-piracy, and risk management. His varied career has included numerous deployments to conflict zones around the world such as Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, trouble spots in Africa, and the Somali pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean. 

Jack continues to work in challenging environments and has now begun to pen novels inspired by some of the more enterprising projects that got the green light, and other audacious plans that didn’t. 

The current WIP is a follow up to Appetite for Risk that sees ex-bootneck John Pierce return to face a ruthless enemy in Africa. 

Jack is normally based in London, UK, but finds he’s at his most productive writing-wise when deployed overseas. Trips to Iraq and Africa beckon, so the follow up should be finished soon.


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