“Man On Fire” by Humphrey Hawksley

If you like conspiracy theories, political issues, and tension between nations while secret operations are in progress, pay very close attention to this book, because Humphrey Hawksley is a pro in writing them, and the book was based on real occurrences, mostly, which you can tell by the details of the explanations.

Man on Fire is about a special ops team designated in Little Diomede, in the US-Russia border that had an order to escort a “package” leaving Russia. Given the causality of the mission, and the good relationships in both sides of the border at the time, both the Russians and the Americans agreed to help the transaction of the package.

Rake and Mikki, were assigned to only observe and make sure the carrier passed the US border safely and not to engage, given that both governments knew what was being done, but things go drastically wrong for unknown reasons and it seems that a third force has other intentions, intentions that turn out to be far worse than both sides imagined.

A very nice piece of writing from Mr. Humphrey, that has a narrative suited to the genre, and  possesses two thing that shine through:

First, the ability of describing nuances in body language and observations that each character makes of others, which plays a pivotal role in understanding what is going on, given that there is much secrecy on all fronts due to critical information and diplomacy issues, and second, the impressive ability that Humphrey Hawksley has to take advantage of these nuances and political games to create little plot twists and shifts in the events as things advance, making the novel everlasting interesting and progressive in a point-to-point straightforward manner that literally cuts to the chase.

There are no interludes, no rambles, just the story that needs to be told and focused on, all details given and told.

The construction and “firmness” of roles of the characters, along with their emotional baggage and mental influences their behaviours in a surprisingly human fashion that adds color and depth to it. There is a clear illustration of flaws. Rake, can’t really “live” an enjoy life and sees it as a task, Carrie is a trauma medic that can’t really get herself to have a family life, and it’s nice to see the lack of “rosy” pictures on this thriller. The author kept things “tight” and real and it’s great!

Another great aspect of the narrative is that it is politically incorrect. Rough words are crude description are commonplace, which suits the genre, the atmosphere and adds to the contrasts of characters and adds rough edges to them that is nice to scrap on.

And there’s the Villain, Yumatov, a hard-ass, cold-stoned, iron-like man with unparalleled determination! You gotta love Yumatov, he is FIERCE!  

Althoughthe book follows the “bad Russian guys” narrative, one can only stop and think that although the means used by the “bad guys” is not the most appropriate, they are in many ways, correct in what they are doing and their vision makes total sense. It’s not lunatic, it’s not something that, after giving thought to it, will make you reach the conclusion that these guys are doing what they are doing for an egotistical purpose. No. They are right all the way out. Their perspective makes sense, which is something refreshing to read and understand. Yumatov alone makes a great reason to read this book.

So, once again, Men on Fire is PERFECT for those who are into military stats, guns, who have been into the army, like fight scenes and tactical operations or even those who like reading about high-stake politics, secret services and nuclear weaponry.

PS: If you can get the PDF version, the reading experience will be even better, the mobi version tires the eyes due to the compact format and the length of the story.

Pros:

  • Neat narrative. Focused. Pin-point accurate and relevant
  • LOTS of details that leave you thinking
  • Unpredictable storyline and many surprises in each plot development
  • Good fight scenes
  • Rough language, which is suitable to the thriller
  • Excellent portrait of emotions, motivations and roles
  • Excellent portrait of diplomatic relationships, secret services and the overall underground world of governments
  • Excellent villain

Cons:

  • There could have been an even more twisted ending

Lesson of the book: “Trust is a dangerous game

Cover Score: 8.9/10

Final score: 8.3/10

Listen to the audio review here

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