The Fourth Protocol

 On Fourth Protocol dustjacket, a pen drips blood
Blood drips from the pen.

Like all Frederick Forsyth’s thrillers, The Fourth Protocol, is a riveting story of good guys—Britain and her allies—versus the bad guys of the Soviet bloc.

The story begins in London with the New Year’s Eve diamond heist from the home of a civil servant. Despite the jewels’ fame and value, the theft goes unreported.

The thief has unwittingly made off with something more valuable.

When he finds out what he has, he tries to set things right.

A package containing the inadvertently stolen item is delivered to Brigadier Bertie Clapstick at the Ministry of Defense.

Clapstick he calls John Preston, who had worked undercover for him in Northern Ireland. The wife of a jeweler had already called Preston to tell relate her husband’s  words as he died from the injuries delivered by unknown assailants.

Preston convinces Clapstick and a few others that there’s a traitor in the Service. Those of his superiors who respect his work set Preston on the case.

Preston saves Britain, but is forced to realize its government doesn’t make the world better—a truth not unlike that embedded in novel’s dedication to Forsyth’s five-year-old son “without whose loving attentions this book would have been written in half the time.”

The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth
Viking Penguin. ©1984. 389 p.
1984 bestseller #7. My grade: B+

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Devil’s Alternative: Politics within politics

Black and red type, red eagle bearing hammer and sickle compose front dust jacket of “The Devils Alternative”
Russian symbols are fixed to the American eagle

As in his three earlier bestsellers, in The Devil’s Alternative Frederick Forsyth puts together a complicated plot against Western democracy.

Here that plot unfolds while the United States thinks it is pulling off a clever scheme to get the Russians to sign an arms deal.

A series of accidents have led to a failure of the Russian grain crop which, in a matter of months, will lead to widespread starvation.

Both the Politburo and the West are sure the Russian people will revolt rather than starve.

America’s intelligence man in Moscow is getting top-secret documents via his old lover, now a secretary to the Politburo.

The documents reveal a power struggle within the Russian leadership. So far, the minority, which has a plan to attack the West with nuclear armaments, is one vote from control.

Meanwhile, a small cell of Ukrainian nationalists are plotting to draw world attention to their demands with a threat to blow up the world’s largest oil tanker, dumping a million barrels of oil into the North Sea.

The tight schedule of events makes the plot riveting but leaves no time for Forsyth’s characters to develop.

The result is good entertainment with a tacked-on ending.

The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
Viking Press. 1980, ©1979. 432 p.
1980 bestseller #8. My grade: B+

© 2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Dogs of War has a sharp bite

White type for title and author on red background suggest innocence.
Crossed guns on the badge are mercenaries’ insignia.

In The Dogs of War, as in his earlier bestsellers The Odessa File and The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth explores a subject ripped from the foreign wire services.

Dogs takes readers into the shadowy world in which high finance allies itself with political power, both using physical force to work their will.

A prospector notices unusual vegetation patterns on a mountain in West Africa, which indicate the presence of tin. When the report gets back to London, a scientist discovers the rock samples reveal a high presence of platinum.

To get the platinum, an unscrupulous British financier instigates a plan to overthrow an African country.  He hires Cat Shannon, a mercenary with experience in Africa, to handle the coup which must occur on Zagaro independence day, just 100 days away.

Shannon is a meticulous planner, carefully selecting his associates, taking advantage of differing national laws on currency transactions, buying goods to furnish a small army, covering his tracks, and always keeping a close eye on the calendar.

Forsyth’s typewriter knocks out flawed characters with redeeming qualities and model citizens who are total scumbags — and makes them both feel totally real.

Dogs has a surprise ending — and Forsyth makes even that feel inevitable.

The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth
Viking Press, © 1974, 408 p.
1974 bestseller #6. My grade: A

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Odessa File: Suspense with a philosophical side

The night of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, German free-lance journalist Peter Miller followed an ambulance hoping to find a story at its destination.

All-text dust jacket of The Odessa File emphasizes the SS in Odessa.
The SS stands out in The Odessa File.

What he found was Solomon Tauber, 56, dead from suicide.

Beside the body was a diary of Tauber’s experiences in the SS extermination camp run by SS Captain Eduard Roschmann, the “Butcher of Riga.”

After reading the diary, Peter feels compelled to find out what happened to Roschmann. He learns Tauber had seen Roschmann alive just a month before right in Hamburg.

Peter starts hunting for Roschmann.

Soon his snooping is noticed by Odessa, the secret organization of ex-SS officers living under new identifies, and by spies for Israel’s Intelligence Service who don’t want amateurs messing up their efforts to stop the development in Germany of a guidance system for Egyptian missiles.

Frederick Forsyth’s spins a suspenseful tale drawing on his career as an investigative reporter in Europe. He weaves actual names and events into his fiction so seamlessly that story feels both real and important.

Forsyth’s invented characters feel real, too. He gets the details right.

Best of all, Forsyth quietly raises questions about human motivation and whether citizens should be held guilty for actions of their government.

The Odessa File: a novel by Frederick Forsyth
Viking Press, ©1972, 337 p.
1972 bestseller #3 & 1973 bestseller #4
My grade: A

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Day of the Jackal: A thriller plus history

Spring, 1963. The OAS, a secret organization of Algerian ex-military, wants Charles de Gaulle killed.

A jackal escapes the hunter's sights
Jackal narrowly escapes

Having failed spectacularly in one attempt to kill de Gaulle, OAS leaders decide to hire a professional assassin, a blond man from England who calls himself Chacal, which is French for jackal.

Chacal wants to operate entirely on his own, with no contact with the OAS except for a telephone number in Paris he can call for information on the security situation.

The OAS set off a rash of thefts across France to raise Chacal’s $500,000 fee, then await developments.

French security officials guess the thefts are to finance another assassination attempt.

They pull in the best detective in France, Claude Lebel, a homicide cop who gets results by deliberate, plodding inquiry and fact checking.

Fredrick Forsyth was a newsman before turning novelist. His knowledge of how government agencies work and his crisp, clear, just-the-facts-m’am prose style makes Day of the Jackal a real page-turner.

Because de Gaulle died of natural causes, readers know who wins, but Forsyth keeps readers up past their bedtime to see the ending.

A bonus is the illumination of European history largely unfamiliar to contemporary readers: France’s conquest of Algeria in the 1830s, her colonial operation there through WWII, and the belief of many Algerians that de Gaulle had promised them French citizenship as a reward for their military service.

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
Viking Press [1971], 380 p.
1971 bestseller #4. My grade: A-

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni