When an unlicensed diver recovers a steel container from the wreck of an executive learjet off the coast of Crete he thinks he has found something valuable. His diving location has been recorded by the CIA who have a particular interest in that area and in particular that jet as it contains a secret that could bring down the American government and need to retrieve the contents of the case before they are discovered. However only 12 hours after opening the case both the Greek diver and his nephew are dead and a viral outbreak is suspected. Something doesn't seem right though and the British secret service sends undercover Agent Paul Richter to uncover exactly what is going on.
I'd never come across James Barrington before but this is his 2nd release featuring Paul Richter as the lead actor. The plot sounded quite appealing and of course the design of the cover with a helicopter racing away from an explosion seemed to grab my attention. Of course there is the old saying that you should never judge a book by its cover and in this case that certainly proved to be true as the cover image had very little to do with the main plot. That said it was still a reasonably interesting concept.
The books plot seemed to start incredibly slowly and the early chapters, like the book's cover had little to do with the plot of this book. Instead they were more about Richter's desire for revenge for incidents that occurred in Barrington's first novel. While he did give some background and attempted justification for his lead characters actions it all felt a little disjointed and I felt it alienated me as a new reader of his work from the opening 100 or so pages. It didn't really seem to have any real baring on the rest of the plot either and only seemed to succeed in giving this book a slow and difficult starting point, but it's probably also give Barrington another book out of this storyline.
Once the plot returned to the story at hand it seemed to struggle to pick up any momentum. This meant that altogether the first 200 pages of a 686 page book made for incredibly hard reading and would certainly put some people off. Thankfully after those first 200 pages or so the writing and storytelling became a lot more fluid and made the initial struggle worthwhile. Once the plot actually got going it became a very interesting plot that held my attention for long periods of time.
In creating his characters Barrington drip feeds the reader information throughout the story both with background on existing characters and introductions to new ones, which I felt worked pretty well. It was clear that he realised the need to recap as this book would attract people who hadn't read his first novel as well as those who had. He gives the reader just enough information at a time that I found I could form a balanced opinion on each character without the characterisation being too much all at once. This result in me really finding his lead character Paul Richter to be interesting and someone you wanted to succeed.
He also spent a lot of time and effort creating the supporting characters and while some just serve their purpose, he has also created very definitive good and bad guys. Each of these main supporting characters seem to add a different twist to the story and really enhance the enjoyment of the second half of the book. As you read through there are plenty of tense moments where you can't see exactly where Barrington is heading and I felt this kept the story fresh and the story moving forward at a decent pace.
Despite the seeming irrelevance of the opening chapters and the slow start this caused to the main story it is by all accounts a very entertaining book. It has an interesting concept for the plot and unlike other action books of this type the lead character doesn't seem to be only interested in finding a love interest, of course that would partly appear to be because of the events of the first book. If you are a fan of Andy McNab, Chris Ryan or any of the other numerous writers of this type of nonfiction then there is a good chance that you'll enjoy Pandemic. If tales of special forces and undercover agencies aren't your thing then you'll absolutely hate it.
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