Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Review: Incognito by Chris Randall

Chris Randall
David Chrysler has an assignment; protect a national heroine known popularly by an affectionate nickname only; the Lady. Exactly what the threat to the Lady was, David was unsure. There had been only vague clues to what the scheme might be. As a former secret agent for MI6, Chrysler had the specific skillset necessary to fulfill this mission; but with so little evidence to go on, this seemingly simple mission would test him more than any other. Before it was all over, David would suffer the death of his best friend, the loss of his backup livelihood, and the ward in his charge would lose her life as well, or would she?

Incognito by Chris Randall is obviously loosely based on the death of Diana Spencer. Halfway through the story, the character is presumably killed in a fiery car crash in a Paris tunnel along with her playboy boyfriend. The conceit of the story, however, is that Randall hints that he’s telling a thinly veiled account of actual events. Is it ripped-from-the-headlines fiction (a la Law and Order) or is it non-fiction with some fictionalized elements to enhance the narrative (a la Braveheart?)
Reading Incognito, I got the feeling that different chapters may have been written by different authors. If you’ve ever seen the film Four Rooms, you may have had the experience of being disoriented by the distinct storytelling styles of the various directors who had tackled the assorted storylines. That’s the feeling I got reading this book. Chapter three was thrilling military adventure. Chapter seven was very good "spy-stuff." Chapter nine was off-putting but well-written S&M erotica. Meanwhile chapter one was almost juvenile by comparison.
Overall, Incognito is an interesting and clever spy thriller. David Chrysler’s methodology and techniques are believable and often very shrewd. The major players are fully drawn, and their relationships seem natural and organic. Unfortunately some of the background characters - especially the ones depicting celebrities - come off as a little cartoonish and mildly hackneyed. That may not matter though. After all, NCIS has been on the air for ten years now and shows no signs of slowing, right?
Incognito is available through Lulu and Amazon.

    The other special gift David had, was the uncanny ability to identify the curious hidden in the ordinary. He could tell when something was not quite right, not just as it appeared. It arose from a combination of a keen sense of observation, and something intangible. David was not given to mystical belief, so he worried about his ability, constantly searching for an answer. He knew instinctively that some day he would solve the riddle. This hidden talent had served him well throughout his life. Now it would be put to use on the special assignment he was undertaking.
    The group, led by Michael Ingram, were the advance party for a more experienced group of SAS officers. The SAS were to infiltrate Port Stanley and put special surveillance equipment in place. To assist their speedy operation, Ingram’s group would negotiate a route to Port Stanley from a safe landing along the coast. They would establish several drop points, where they would hide packages of equipment to be used by the SAS, who would follow on later.
    The party landed in the dark of night. Ingram led the way up the rocks that hung precariously above them, threatening to eject them into the foaming sea below. The bleak cold landscape that spread out at the top of the rocky crags looked threatening in the semi-dark of night. A fine misty rain, that spread like a blanket of dampness over them, was evidence that they were wrapped in a swath of low cloud. So it seemed strange that the alien landscape would sprout landmarks that glistened eerily in a moonless night.

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