Black 13 by Adam Hamdy #BookReview

Black 13 is the brilliant first novel in The Scott Pearce Series from Adam Hamdy and features series lead and ex-MI6 officer Scott Pearce. In this addictive and fast-paced thriller, Pearce is about to show us that in a world where there is no loyalty to the nation state, it’s time to burn the espionage rulebook. An exiled agent. A growing threat. A clandestine war.

The world is changing beyond recognition.
Radical extremists are rising and seek to enforce their ideology globally.
Governments, the military and intelligence agencies are being outmanoeuvred at every step. Borders are breaking down. Those in power are puppets.
The old rules are obsolete. To fight this war a new doctrine is needed.

In a world where nothing is at it seems, where trust is gone, one man will make the difference.

Meet Ex-MI6 agent and man in exile, Scott Pearce.
It’s time to burn the espionage rule book.
Watch Pearce light the fire.

I'm thrilled to be sharing my review of Black 13 today. Huge thanks to Adam Hamdy, Pan Macmillan and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for sending me an advanced digital copy of the novel.

It's been several hours since I finished Black 13 and I still feel as if I've been through the wringer - what a book this is! As the first novel in The Scott Pearce series, it's not a spoiler to say Scott somehow makes it through even the most dire of circumstances but he - and my nerves - were tested to the limit in an exhilarating thriller which never lets up from the word go.
The shocking events in the prologue means it is immediately obvious that there are deadly forces at play here and even those who have experienced working in the most dangerous circumstances will be up against a ruthless enemy who always seems to be one step ahead.
Scott Pearce was once hailed a hero for preventing a catastrophic attack in Islamabad but when he continues to insist that some unidentified perpetrators manged to escape, he is viewed as a conspiracy nut and eventually forced out of MI6. We are first introduced to Pearce in Railay, Thailand and he clearly hasn't given up the risk-taking or the pursuit of justice. However, his life rapidly becomes even more dangerous when he is hired as a climbing guide by a woman called Melody Gold who knows his real identity. She informs him she doesn't want him to teach her how to climb and instead shows him grainy footage of a dead former comrade.
From this point onwards, the tension rarely eases up as Pearce and Melody are forced to flee Thailand before discovering that they aren't any safer in London. As Pearce gathers some trusted former associates around him (my favourite being Leila) the breakneck pace of the plot meant I was glued to the pages, my heart in my mouth as just as it seemed things couldn't get much worse, they often did. There are some hugely tense scenes in Black 13 as the protagonists desperately try to untangle a sordid, shadowy web of deceit and corruption. Although there are several nail-biting moments, there is a scene towards the end of the novel which I found particularly difficult to read. I can't give anything away but it's the most terrifying part of a story which should give anybody nightmares.
Scott Pearce is a complex, enigmatic protagonist and the glimpses into his background provide some explanation as to why he has become such a driven, intelligent and accomplished man. I welcomed the recognition that his lifestyle might be addictive but has still left him with psychological scars. Likewise, although Leila is a highly skilled, resolute woman who refuses to let her past define her, there are still moments which are a poignant reminder that she will always live with the horrors she endured in Syria.
Black 13 isn't just an exciting action thriller however, and as noteworthy as the high-octane scenes are, it's the underlying themes which really made the book for me. Adam Hamdy takes a timely look at some of the biggest issues we currently face; radical extremism, indoctrination by stealth and our increasingly polemical discourse, particularly on social media. Although Russian interference in global state affairs is widely accepted, few people ever stop to really question whether the other information they are presented with has been put there to manipulate them; beyond a vague recognition that sock-puppet and bot accounts exist, many of us are guilty of reacting to tweets and posts which confirm our own biases one way or another. As Pearce discovers the shocking truth about the deadly intentions of his enemies, perhaps the real message is that society is allowing itself to become ever more radicalised by populism and that we all face a propaganda war of words and beliefs, the eventual consequences of which are too frightening to contemplate.
I loved Black 13, it's an outstanding contemporary thriller with a breathtaking, intelligent storyline and a vividly realised cast of characters. I'm delighted that there is more to come as the conclusion left me desperate to find out what lies in store for Scott Pearce in the next book. Very highly recommended.

Black 13 is published by Pan Macmillan, buying links can be found here.

About the Author

British author and screenwriter Adam Hamdy works with studios and production companies on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the author of the Pendulum trilogy, an epic series of conspiracy thriller novels. James Patterson described Pendulum as ‘one of the best thrillers of the year’, and the novel was a finalist for the Glass Bell Award for contemporary fiction. Pendulum was chosen as book of the month by Goldsboro Books and was selected for BBC Radio 2 Book Club. Prior to embarking on his writing career, Adam was a strategy consultant and advised global businesses in the medical systems, robotics, technology and financial services sectors.
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