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Old 11-22-2011
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Scoundrel - Bernard Cornwell

Cornwell is known mostly for his historical novels, but his thrillers are terrific too. This novel has less sailing/nautical flavor than the other suspense books he has written. The heros in Killer's Wake, Stormchild, Crackdown, etc were all of a type: lone sailors running from an unhappy past that just needed the love of a good woman to be happy. Lots of sailing, some exotic locales, yet very English. The "hero" in Scoundrel isn't really like that. Sure, he's a basically unhappy guy, but he's not the slightly scruffy but with a heart of gold; this guy is a member of the Provisional IRA. A terrorist. Well, not really, or fully, but really sort of (no spoilers here!). The book is set in 1991 during the lead up to the first Gulf War. The Troubles rule in Ireland, the Provos are in full swing, and our hero is caught in the middle when he is hired to sail $5 million in gold across the Atlantic so the IRA can buy Stinger missles from the Cubans; except our hero decides to steal the gold and get out of the business altogether. Along the way, we find out just how deep his involvement in the IRA has been, and what he has done in his past, and how he is linked to Palestinian terrorists.

I usually start to squirm when I read these types of books as they just seem so unrealistic. But the scale on this one is right: the bad guys are bad, but they don't want to rule the world, just kill a few people. And although some of the plot lines are dated (when was the last time you heard about the IRA?), the middle east terrorists and their goals could have be written yesterday.

In all, a good book, but I was expected (and hoping) for more sailing/nautical stuff. In his other thrillers, even when the characters aren't aboard a boat, they LIVE the sailing life, and that comes through strongly throughout the stories. In Scoundrel, the lifestyle is really just a flavoring for the main story.
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