(Arrow 2008, originally published as “Cobra Gold”). Review date: 14/03/2008
A Flavour of the Book: “When the enemy convoy was still some eight hundred yards away Kilbride pulled the trigger. A split second later Nightly’s rocket followed. There was a double flash of flame that lit up Kilbride’s position in a stark glare as the two missiles streaked unseen through the air. The first struck in a shower of sparks just in front of the lead enemy vehicle, and exploded on the far side of the road. An instant later Nightly’s missile hit, the 66mm projectile tearing into the centre of the enemy convoy…”
The Authortrek View: Cobra 405 is a one hell of a big dumb book for adrenaline junkies. Author Damien Lewis takes his inspiration from a real-life bank job in the Lebanon from 1976, and relocates the action to 1979 (although confusingly, the back cover says the bank robbery in the novel occurred in 1976). Luke Kilbride, an SAS veteran, is given the task of retrieving some terrorist files locked up in a bank vault. The terrorists also utilize the bank to store their funds in the form of gold bullion, which they think is safe, as all sides in the civil war bank there. Kilbride draws up a daring plan to retrieve the terrorist papers, although his upper class superior (who wants to instate some order into the legendary informal ‘Regiment’) rips into the plan, making Kilbride and his men even more determined to make it work. Stealing the gold bullion is the last thing on Kilbride’s mind, but since everyone he talks to assume that they will be nicking the gold, it all rather becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially as this would also do much to knock out the terrorists. So much does Kilbride focus on the gold, that during the raid, he almost forgets to steal the terrorist papers…
Still the SAS is so well equipped that they have a Rubik’s Cube a whole year before anyone else in Western Europe got one (even before it was named the Rubik’s Cube - one hopes that Damien Lewis is a bit more accurate about the SAS’s real weaponry). Oh, and that little ceasefire in the Lebanon that Kilbride and his men have just wrecked? Well, as their Lebanese guide repeatedly points out, it was going to be broken anyway… Kilbride’s stereotypical band of men from all corners of the British Isles and English-speaking world still do their best to be good guys, even though one of them used to be in South Africa’s special forces – we’re not in the realm of the politically correct here. Unfortunately, the gold belongs to some bad guys, the Black Assassins, a band of evildoers who date back to the Crusades, although most of Kilbride’s troop are bored witless whenever anyone speaks in Da Vinci Code, as they’re more interested in chasing skirts than intellectual pursuits. In addition to this, most of the dialogue in the novel is clichéd and clunky. I also quickly guessed the identity of Kilbride’s would-be nemesis, ‘The Searcher’, but even Damien Lewis didn’t seem bothered about stretching the tension out further on that one. Still, Damien Lewis’s intention was never to write a literary work, and despite its numerous faults, Cobra 405 does the essential thing of getting the adrenaline flowing.
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