Saturday, March 11, 2017


THE OTTOMAN CONSPIRACY by Thomas Ryan (Thomas & Mercer, 2017)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Former Special Forces soldier Jeff Bradley is meeting with the mafia in Bari, Italy, to discover the whereabouts of his nemesis—criminal overlord Avni Leka—when he receives a message from an old friend. Barry is on board a tourist bus that has been hijacked by terrorists near Istanbul. Strapped with explosives, it is racing across Turkey to the northern borders of Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Turkish president will not negotiate. The Turkish military will not allow the bus to cross the border. The hijackers will kill themselves and their hostages if they cannot escape. 

Jeff knows it’s down to him to rescue his friend. Joining forces with US special agent Reason Johanson, he faces his toughest test yet: a race against time to track down the bus before it reaches the border. Along the way, Jeff uncovers a conspiracy that could not only lead him to those responsible for the hijacking, but also threaten global security itself.

Reading Thomas Ryan's books takes me back to tearing through Alistair McLean books as an adolescent. I loved those derring-do tales that combined adventure, mystery, and exotic locales. I devoured all of McLean's oeuvre, as well as plenty from Desmond Bagley, Frederick Forsyth, then later Daniel Easterman, and Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series (although those latter tomes were more multi-faceted and overflowing with details in among all the action and geopolitical intrigue). 

Ryan's series starring Jeff Bradley, a former special forces soldier who now owns a winery, is action-packed, and packed full of interesting characters, locations, and incidents. They're fast, fun reads. 

Following on from books set in Kosovo and New Zealand, this one takes us to Turkey (with a side trip to Italy) - although once again the localised action has plenty of global implications. Ryan keeps excitement levels revving his as Bradley and a skilled female operative join forces to look into the hijacking of the busload of Australian and New Zealand tourists visiting Gallipoli (an historic battleground from the First World War that is deeply significant for those two nations, and Turkey). 

Reason Johanson, the American operative, can more than hold her own with Bradley, and provides an interesting ally and foil. She gets involved because some relatives of important US diplomats were along for the ride with the Aussies and Kiwis on the Gallipoli bus tour. Could this get even more complicated if the terrorists realise who some of their hostages really are? And how will Bradley and Reason intervene, when the Turkish authorities don't even want to admit the hostage-taking?

THE OTTOMAN CONSPIRACY, and the Jeff Bradley series as a whole, is classic 'old skool' action--mystery storytelling, with heroes and villains, powerful forces plotting behind the scenes, and some nice intrigue and twists. A good read for the fans of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the like. 

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed more than 180 crime writers, discussed crime writing onstage at arts and literary festivals in Europe and Australasia, on national radio, has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

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