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by Steve Jackson
Harper, December 2007
400 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007212089

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Following on from his first successful Paul Aston book, THE MENTOR, Steve Jackson has crafted an intriguing tale of an MI6 agent assigned to a secret group (operating outside the normal bounds of MI6), which has been created by the agencyís head spymaster. The task assigned to this group: to uncover the mystery behind a severed hand that has been found in Rome, clutching 30 pieces of silver.

The victim turns out to be a retired MI6 officer who has dabbled in many unsavory vices, both while serving MI6 and following. Eventually the trail leads back to London, and to Paul Astonís old boss whoís in prison and about to stand trial for terrorist activities in London.

Along the way, the story told in THE JUDAS manages to uncover a Russian connection among a series of MI6 victims, each with their own gruesome tale of death. Astonís own life, that of his coworkers, and of his own family are all put in jeopardy as he attempts to sort out the story. Things become even more ominous when his imprisoned former boss makes a bold escape during the trial at Old Bailey.

Yet because THE JUDAS is the middle book in a trilogy surrounding the relationship between Paul Aston and his former MI6 boss, readers are left hanging at the end of this novel, presumably to buy the next book in the series. For a reader coming to this thriller cold, it leaves an unsatisfactory sense of unsettled business at the thrillerís end. There are many parts of the book that rely on a readerís knowledge of previous facts revealed in the first novel, which is a decidedly aggravating distraction for readers. Readers know they are missing facts from the first book, but must soldier on with the story anyway.

There are many good elements to THE JUDAS: the main characters are engaging. Paul Aston is a likeable hero, the setting and dramas that play out in the story are intriguing, and the spycraft included in the tale adds interest to the story. Yet it is hard to overlook the series factor, and if readers are prepared to make the commitment to reading all three books, they are likely to find the complete saga worthwhile. For those coming to this middle volume without the foreknowledge of previous events, it makes for a somewhat less-than-satisfying read.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, January 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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