Blackout

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Title: Blackout <>Binding: Paperback <>Author: Chris Ryan <>Publisher: ARROW

Chris Ryan's time has come. For years now, the ex-SAS writer has been turning out flint-edged, fast-moving novels without a trace of subcutaneous fat: barrelling narratives that handled characterisation with extreme economy (too much economy for some tastes), but never cheated on the pulse-accelerating tension that is his hallmark. But with Blackout, Ryan's key subject -- the threat of terrorism to all our lives -- could not be more à propos, and that old journalistic cliché, 'ripped from today's headlines', actually gets it just right with this one.

When three major cities lose all electrical power, there is, surprisingly, no claim of responsibility from any terrorist group. But a grim paranoia grips the nation. In the deserts of Arizona, a badly wounded SAS operative is found, his mind wiped clean. But this soldier is the key to crucial information about the terrorist threat: his amnesia is blocking the knowledge of a computer hacker with access to dangerous secrets, double agents who have been turned by Al Qaeda and even top-level government corruption. It's up to SAS man Josh Harding to unlock his mind before the people tracking him down pull the trigger.

For 10 years, Chris Ryan put his life on the line in real-life SAS operations, and his subsequent literary career has drawn heavily on his knowledge of the tradecraft and danger of those days. What makes his no-frills thrillers so compelling is this sense of verisimilitude. Ryan will never be a literary stylist, but one doesn't turn to his books for elegant prose -- it's the steadily accelerating tension and frighteningly plausible plots that have made him quite as successful author as he ever was an SAS commander. --Barry Forshaw

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