Review: The Stranger.

(Hint: buy it now!)

THE STRANGER, by Simon Conway, published by Hodder & Stoughton

ISBN: 9781529 332100

This is a good time for reviewers, obviously. Not only do we get time to sit back and read, but publishers are keen to send books out with a view to having some form – any form – of marketing, now that book launches have stopped, festivals have been cancelled, and the chance of getting authors out in front of the public is non-existent.

Still, when I was contacted by Simon Conway and asked whether I’d like to have a review copy of his latest, I was very happy to agree. Not only because it would be a good book to read, but because it was Simon’s. No, there’s no need for a disclaimer. I have never (to my knowledge) met Simon. However, I have spoken to him on Twitter, and I have liked other books by him which I have read. No, not liked – loved!

Simon is a fascinating character. He was an officer in the British army, and had, I am sure, a good career. Many men from the army have tried to capitalise on their experiences. They leave and go into politics; they take up writing as a new career, moulding ingenious stories; they go on TV to show how to live in the wild – or something similar. Most of them you will never have heard of, because their writing wasn’t adequate to tempt an editor, or because their imaginations weren’t up to the job. But out of every 10,000 manuscripts, as the old saying went, one might be good enough to make a story. Simon’s one of those fellows.

But there is a lot more to him than an ex-officer in the army trying to make a fast buck from writing.

He has cleared landmines across the world. He was Co-Chair of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, and managed to achieve the international ban on cluster bombs. Those two alone merit my respect. However he is now the Director of Capability for the HALO Trust as well. He is a man who has lived dangerously, and knows what he is talking about. When he speaks about mixing different solutions being hazardous, you get the feeling that here is a fellow who has pulled apart similar devices.

Enough about him.

Simon has written five books now, and this is as much of a thriller as any of them – which is itself very high praise.

This book takes the reader from a torturer’s prison camp, to the corridors of Westminster ( and even a short excursion to the White House), before going on a journey to the wild badlands of Syria, refugee camps in Jordan, migrant camps in Greece, and back.

In the world of espionage and clandestine operations, situations can change quickly. That is something that Jude Lyon of MI6 has already learned. In this story, he hears that a terrorist, known only as The Stranger, is out on the loose. He had thought the man had died years before, after his capture for blowing up a British Special Forces team. He had been taken by the British, and Jude was the officer responsible for delivering him to Syrian forces, back in the days when Syria had been a friendly state.

No one had expected him to survive harsh interrogation at the hands of the Syrians. The British and Americans were happy to think that he was being taken out of their hands, and that he would never be seen again.

But now he appears to have been released. And that is embarrassing – to the government, to the MP who agreed to the man being sent to Syria, and to Jude’s boss. But with an investigative reporter on the case, this is a problem that needs to go away. So Jude is ordered to go and find out what is happening. He must make the story go away.

The trouble is, Jude has enough problems already: from the wife of a Russian spy whom he has enticed into a honey trap, to his ex, who is now his line manager.

It is a policy of mine to only very rarely mention weaknesses in stories. To review this, I had to go to paper, listing the positives and the negatives.The problem is, I could find no negatives.

I was so taken I even had to change the ink in my pen!

Seriously, from the moment I picked this book up, I was entirely hooked. The characters are not only well-drawn, they are entirely believable. The situations are brilliantly portrayed, and each plot twist is rational and convincing. The culmination is a fabulous set-piece … and then – but no, I can’t say more about that. The main thing is, it’s just a superb read by a writer who is on the very top of his form. Stunning, exhilarating, thrilling – phew!

As you can see in the picture above, I did manage to list two issues that I had with this. First, it was too short – I wanted it to go on; and second, it wasn’t available yet.

Well, it is now! Don’t just take my word for it: go out and buy this book. It is superb. Very likely this is going to be my best book of the year. If you like adventure, thriller and crime rolled into one, with a heady lacing of spy novel thrown in, you are in for a treat!

Need I mention that I loved it?

For your copy, go to

5 Responses to “Review: The Stranger.”
  1. Lindsey Russell says:

    Strange indeed – this has today’s date on it yet I’m sure I read it several days ago ???????????? Did I go through a time warp or did you take it down and put it back up>


    • Nope, I wrote it this afternoon and put it up late in the day! You must have seen someone else’s post, I guess?


      • Lindsey Russell says:

        Then I must have had an attack of the spooks because I limit the number of author blogs I visit (wouldn’t have time to write for myself otherwise) and yours is the only one I’ve read a review on recently :)


  2. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Michael reviews a book…


  3. Sounds awesome have shared. :)


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