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The Odin mission is the first book in the Jack Tanner WW2 series of novels written by James Holland and is set in Norway during the Nazi invasion in 1940. The book introduces Sergeant Jack Tanner, a Sergeant in the Kings Yorkshire, a man with a past as yet unrevealed but a resourceful and aggressive soldier. I have to make a confession like a lot of young boys who grew up post war (I think early 70's is still just post war?) I loved the stories of daring and bravery about the missions during WW1 and WW2, the best where the stories by Dennis Wheatley and Alastair Maclean. They always glorified the battles between the honest resourceful Tommie and the dastardly Nazi Germans, I think as I've got older that the lines between the resourceful cheerful British soldier and the cold calculating German have blurred and you start to see that the British and German soldiers on the front line where pretty much the same and only the higher commands in the German army where truly evil. Anyway that was then and this is now, so after many years without reading a war novel I spotted this book in the library and thought why not.
The book begins with the invasion of Norway by the Germans in 1940, the British army have been sent to bolster the Norwegian army and soon find them in full retreat when the technological advances of the Germans are discovered. The book starts with a group of Norwegian soldiers who are escorting an important scientist away from the Germans and hopefully into British hands. Soon the Norwegians are attacked and the colonel is badly injured, they come across a group of British troops led by Jack Tanner and a group of French troops led by Captain Chevalier. The Colonel knowing he's dying tells Jack that Odin, the codename for the scientist is vital for the future of the war and mustn't fall into enemy hands. Jack tells the Colonel he'll get Odin to England and has to come up with a a plan to get the British, Norwegian and French troops back to the British lines unfortunately he clashes with the French captain and they miss the retreating British and have to make their way through the harsh Norwegian forests to get back.
From this point onwards the book becomes a classic war book, the British are noble but common all slang words, rough, and a tendency to settle matters with their fists. The Norwegians are the noble Scandinavians they are tall, good looking, intelligent but lacking in numbers, the French are aloof and arrogant and the Germans are there as the counterfoils they are cast in purely evil v good mode. The Germans go around being arrogant, aggressive, killing all in their way and being the worst of the worst, of course the British are the opposite, noble, self sacrificing Englishmen all ready to give there all for King and country. The action keeps on coming, there are plenty of gun fights, explosions, booby traps, treachery and intrigue. The books main character is Jack and the story is nearly all told from his angles, but it's not a first person perspective, there are chapters covering the Germans who are looking for Odin and they are a bit predictable in making the Germans the worst of the worst.
I enjoyed this romp through the Norwegian mountains, yes the characters are a bit one dimensional but the action is well written and believable and the writer gives Jack and the other British characters believable worries over the future and their fears for the outcome of the war. The book is just over 300 pages and that comes across as about the right size for a decent war story, any shorter and it feels like your just charging from one gun fight to another any longer and the survival of the men appears almost impossible. I think the reaction to this book and others in the series depends on your like or dislikes of war stories as appropriate stories for reading. If you're of the opinion that glorifying war and reducing the impact of death and destruction is a bad thing then this book isn't for you but if you're more open to what used to be called a ripping yarn then you'll enjoy this novel. The best recommendation is would I read the next? Well the answer is yes, I wouldn't buy it or go out of the way to get it but if I saw it on a shelf in the library then I'd pick it up read it and within a few weeks completely forget it in all probability