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by Steve Jackson
HarperCollins, October 2006
400 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007212097

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Steve Jackson's debut novel THE MENTOR doesn't go in the direction you think it will and that's not really a compliment!

It starts off with 18/8 where London is again the target of terrorist atrocities, then veers into fairly mundane Cold War thriller territory. I kept expecting George Smiley to emerge, blinking, into the daylight of 21st century London.

Paul Aston is a young MI6 agent who is sent off to report back on the explosions on the Underground, and sees sights which will haunt him for the rest of his life. As he starts to investigate, he soon wonders who's on what side and where the real evil is based (and sorry for such a vague summary, but it would be easy to chuck in a spoiler with this particular plot!)

THE MENTOR is slickly told and an easy read, but is curiously unengaging, Those early, nightmare scenes in the aftermath of the terrorist attack are almost skated over. We see Paul's relationship with girlfriend Laura falling apart, but it feels a bit flat and like writing by numbers.

The characters could do with more fleshing out as well, particularly Paul and his best friend and colleague Georgina 'George' Strauss. A personal twist for Paul at the end is an eye-roller guaranteed to have you phoning the optician for emergency treatment the next day!

Jackson started writing THE MENTOR before the July 7 tube and bus bombings in London. Apparently he put it aside for a while then ventured back into the 'what if' territory. But don't go thinking this is a thriller for the 21st century this is firmly rooted in the 1970s.

Even though you might think Jackson has been watching too much of SPOOKS, and that he doesn't really do enough with his 'what if', his characters and his plot, there's enough here to suggest that he might be one to watch in future. There are several strong scenes, including Paul's return to the family home in rural Wiltshire and during the chase to outwit a master villain who knows too much although the ending is 'check in your disbelief at the door' territory!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, November 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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