Review: Shifting Sands: Tradecraft: Phase One – Michael Shusko

Shiftin Sands Michael Shusko

Series: Tradecraft 2

My version: Paperback
Genre: Thriller, USA, Middle East

First published: 2017
Pages: 336

From the cover:
Iranian physicist Dr. Sara Qaderi has been leaking intelligence to the UN detailing her deadly work at a nuclear facility in Iran for months – but her time is running out. Colonel Mostafa Sabri is on the hunt for the traitors who have been compromising Iran’s national security. And he always finds his prey.
Since birth, Sara has been taught that Americans aren’t to be trusted. Now her life is in the hands of Nick Shane, an American Marine whose mission is to get her and the vital information she carries to Afghanistan before Israel drops the first bombs of the next world war. He has his own reservations about this Iranian physicist and her motives. But he also has his orders, and will carry out his mission at all costs.
Will they make it in time to save the world from erupting into a violent global conflict – or die in the unforgiving Iranian desert?

Now this is a thriller. This, along with Gregg Hurwitz’s latest Orphan X, is one of the best thrillers I have read this year. Probably will read this year. OK, we’re only half way through, but I can’t see it being beaten – unless, that is, it’s by Michael’s next one. And with every day, the Iran angle of the plot, seems to become more topical! Only having a crazy, ass-hat of a US President trying his best to fuck the operation back up on his US golf course, would have had you wondering if you were actually reading a newspaper report of the incidents. It’s as topical as tomorrow’s newspapers, as they say.

Then a breakneck, breathless pace and a plot brimming with a whole host of nutty problems, means there is plenty for both the author and reader to get their writing and reading teeth into. All are dealt with in a very honest and realistic way, unusual (in my experience), for an American writer of popular thrillers. Well, those I’ve read up to now, anyway. Also, even better, is that despite seeming to have strong links to the US military, it’s not at all gung-ho, and doesn’t take the easy sideswipes at the Arabs, or the middle east, that a lesser American writer would. Maybe I’m still pissed off with the Lone Survivor guy, which isn’t fair on Michael. Sorry. All the same, this even-handed objectiveness, was very much appreciated from me, and raised Shifting Sands even higher above any competition in my mind. As did the sibling rivalry angle. It had a sympathetic and authentic feel too it, especially the small, almost asides, comments from boys’ parents. I was sceptical at first, that it was going to work, but it won me over and made the book complete.

Vector Tradecraft Phase Zero Michael Shusko

Shifting Sands, as I can see it, is a follow-up, of sorts to the first of Michael’s Tradecraft books I read. I can’t tell if there’s anything of a series going on here, as they feature different scenarios, and different characters. I’ll need to get stuck into the third book to see if I can figure out what the link – apart from all having Tradecraft in the title somewhere, is. What I am sure of however, is that Shifting Sands builds on the solid foundation and promise of the first book in all the right ways, elevating it from the first one, better written, more completely plotted, more realistically plotted, really, and just – to translate from Danish – hanging together better (I speak Danish all day every day, and sometimes the concepts don’t translate well, and the Danish concept giver mere mening…).

If I have a niggle, it was the romance. In ‘this sort of thing,’ once you find out the (in this case) scientist is beautiful (though to be fair, she wasn’t I don’t think, ever described as ‘beautiful’), you know for absolutely sure, put your house on it, certain, that they – her and the main man – are going to fall in love. No matter how much of a Stockholm Syndrome dressing up you give it. I wish, for once, that it didn’t happen. The guy, even being single and not gay, doesn’t fall for her, she doesn’t, despite being single and – at least good-looking – and not gay, doesn’t feel attracted to him, at any point – even if they start off hating each other, you know the odd-couple routine is gonna turn to lurve, by the end. And, ‘Sara’? Wrong Middle East religion, surely?

That said, I will admit to having come over all unnecessary when the end scenario is delivered. Did I just say that? I think I did. However, nothing can take away from the feeling of rightness that came over me reading this book. Well thought out, well planned. well written and executed and brought to a satisfying whole Shifting Sands says to me that even though Michael may not be a huge name right now – he certainly deserves to be, it can’t be long before he is, and even so, he’s the one the big boys are going to have to beat to my affections from now on.

You can buy Shifting Sands Tradecraft: Phase One here The Book Depository

Cover image is by Fabien Bazanegue through Unsplash

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