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After a desperate phone call from an old friend, Stephanie Patrick reluctantly puts her holiday plans on hold and heads to meet her friend in a Paris café. When she arrives something doesn't feel quite right and following her instinct she leaves only seconds before a bomb blows the café apart. Realising the bomb was meant for her, or rather her alter ego the assassin Petra Reuter, Stephanie must do what she can to stay alive and find out who is targeting her. Along the way she finds that all her trusted sources have been compromised and unsure where to turn she kidnaps a seemingly innocent Robert Newman and goes to ground. As she tries to identify who is after her things seem to get more and more complicated and is the chance kidnapping of Robert Newman just a coincidence?
As has been the case with a number of books recently I picked this one up in Tesco for as part of a two for £7 offer. I'd never heard of Mark Burnell before picking up this book but the quote on the front from the Observer boasting that this was going to be better than the Bourne books certainly grabbed my attention. Of course I've learnt by now never to trust quotes from media sources as if I did I'd believe that every book or film was the best ever. Going into this with an open mind I have to say that I was very disappointed and the plot certainly didn't stand up against the original Bourne books by Robert Ludlum, far from it.
Of course as introductions to a lead character go the Assassination of a major Arms dealer in the first few pages grab your attention. From there though I thought that Burnell took a long time to really give the reader enough information on his lead character. It would obviously have helped had I known that this was the 4th book in the series but I'd never heard of Mark Burnell before never mind his lead character Petra Reuter. The lengthy wait for some basic background made the book as a stand-alone almost entirely dull. A lot of the opening pages assumed that the reader would know the key players from the previous books and left me as a first time reader of Burnell's work a little lost and struggling to work out what on earth was going on.
Once he finally got round to revealing a little more background on his main character the story did start to improve slightly as you started to feel a little more in touch with the person you were supposed to be reading about. As lead characters go Reuter is actually quite a complex and interesting character but it takes too long to really get to grips with her meaning you will have to have read the previous books before even attempting this one.
While the character development took too long to really come about this wasn't the book's biggest failing. That would lie solely in the plot. Again the author assumes that everyone will know who his lead character is and bases the entire story around trying to kill her and use her reputation but if you've never come across her before you don't know what that reputation is and it makes for a book that really struggles to get going. Despite a relatively high body count the plot is incredibly slow and took a lot of motivation to pick it up and carry on reading.
It does improve dramatically towards the end as Petra starts to clean up the plot behind the failed attempt on her life but I think for most readers this will be too little too late. The pace of the story from the start to the middle makes the 600 + pages seem far longer and the flow of the story just never really seems to get going. There are far too many moments throughout the book that are drawn out or added supposedly for effect that just seem to needlessly draw the story out as if Burnell had a word count he had to hit in order to receive a certain bonus payment. The ending works really well, it's just a shame about the overly long build up to get to the point.
Despite my own opinion I think if you've been a fan and read Burnell's tales of Reuter from the start you'd probably enjoy this far more. It certainly reads like a book that forms part of a series and unfortunately for anyone who likes a thriller they can just pick up and read this will certainly not be for you. It needs investment into the series and with three books before it there is presumably a lot of her back-story covered in these books. I have to admit though that this experience of Burnell's story telling has put me off and I certainly wont be reading any more of his books. As for the boasts about being better than Bourne or James Bond that cover the corner, I'm afraid they are way short of the mark in terms of story telling and characterisation.
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This is a book that my dad bought for me and posted over to our BFPO address. It is not my usual kind of book but I will read anything (as my dad well knows) and so I had a go. The price my dad paid was £6.99 although you can get this on Amazon for about £3 or £4 so my advice is to shop around and get the best deal you can.
Stephanie Patrick is a strange woman. She is an assassin, a hired gun, and, by all accounts, blooming good at it. In fact, she is one of the most notorious assassins of the day. She goes by a variety of names, Marie Bernard is one, and Petra Reuter is the most infamous of her identities. She has decided that it is time to retire from a life of adrenaline rushes and deceit, but the 20 years she has spent at the top of her game is all about to change in the blink of an eye......
A telephone call from an old acquaintance calls her to Paris, where she is to meet her old friend. But someone out there has other ideas. She narrowly avoids being killed in a terrorist attack on the cafe where she was supposed to meet her associate.
On going to her bank to get a new identity from her safe deposit box, she is warned that the safety of the box has been compromised and that she is in danger. So she does what anyone else would do .... she runs for her life. But who could be doing this? Only a select few knew about this box. To protect her life, she must find out who is after her and why before it is too late.
Shortly after this, she meets Robert Newman and, after a cruel twist of events, kidnaps him. But there is more to Newman than meets the eye. For one, he is terrified when she ties him up and he has strange scars on his wrists. Only time will tell ....
The closer she comes to discovering the truth, the closer Stephanie and Newman become. But Newman seems to know many people that are connected with the "plot" to wipe Petra Reuter off the planet. Is he all he says he is or is he connected? That is a question that can only be answered by reading the book.
This is the first time that I have read anything by Burnell and I am sorry to say it is the last. I did not enjoy his style of writing. It flitted from "storytelling" to writing as if he were Petra/Stephanie/Marie ("I am sitting in the chair watching the television" - that kind of writing). To me this made the book quite disjointed and a little confusing.
I am disappointed as reading the back of the book I was greeted with quotes like "If you like thrillers, this is as good as it gets" from the Economist and the Sunday Telegraph wrote "Mark Burnell brings the espionage novel right up to date. Petra makes James Bond look like a wimp".
Sorry to anyone who is a fan of Burnell and his work but I did not enjoy this book at all. I like a book that grabs my attention and while this one kept me interested for about the first 20 pages or so, I did lose my enjoyment after that and had to force myself to pick it up again, for the sake of a decent and honest review! I was determined to see the book through to the end (which was a big disappointment - I expected much more than I got!) but this one will be going on the shelf and possibly donated to the next jumble sale that my daughter's school has.
Other works from Burnell are The Rhythm Section, Chameleon and Gemini, but I won't be reading any of these soon.
If you like thriller books, and are indifferent to reading lots of information that is really superfluous, then you may enjoy this. I personally did not enjoy the book and have to totally disagree with the quotes mentioned above - I would rather read about James Bond's exploits with his latest Bond Girl than read this again. And the comparison is null and void in my opinion - James Bond is a government agent, Petra/Stephanie/Marie is a gun for hire - two totally different scenarios.
My advice is to get this from the library if you want to see what it is all about before spending your hard earned cash buying it full price or even reduced on Amazon.
Not recommended ..... Sorry Mr Burnell.
Thank you for reading. Di xx
In our brave, old world where everyone and everything has its price, who do you trust? The Third Woman is a fascinating, overwhelming thriller following the adventures of Burnell's unique heroine Stephanie Patrick. From conspiracy to terrorism, Vienna to Paris, will she find the truth? The world isn't run by governments. It's run by corporations. In other words, everything and everyone has a price. Stephanie Patrick operates under a number of names; Petra Reuter, known as a gun for hire, is probably the one she uses most frequently. She used to work for the government. Now she works for herself. Robert Newman, who spends more nights at 35,000 feet than in his own bed, is an international troubleshooter. But twenty years at the top have still not purged for him the ghosts of the past. A plea for help from an old friend draws Stephanie to Paris, where she narrowly survives a terrorist attack, an outrage that according to the authorities was masterminded by Petra Reuter. Betrayed in every way, pursued ruthlessly by a faceless enemy, her identity stolen from her, Stephanie seizes a hostage to give her a slim possibility of escape. But is the encounter with Robert Newman really just chance? Hunted from Paris to Vienna, Stephanie and Newman are forced together to survive. Yet the more she learns, the closer Newman seems to be to the heart of the conspiracy. Stephanie becomes sure of only one thing: that the answers will lie with the person who she knows as The Third Woman. The Third Woman is vividly contemporary, with a welcome return for a unique heroine.