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Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani

 Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani Twelve powerful people are kidnapped and imprisoned in an empty hotel. Each one of them has three choices: Live out the rest of their days peacefully in the hotel, Die by suicide so the rest of their companions can go free, Or murder one of their companions so they alone can go free. The Only Way Out is Death follows the story of these twelve people from the perspective of a young lawyer, Kiriaki, told as the events unfold. She has to forge messy alliances, navigate complex relationships and feuds, and, above all, try to stay alive. Meanwhile, the mastermind of this death game is lurking just out of view, watching them closely, making sure they are primed for murder. Will Kiriaki find the mastermind before it's too late for her? Will she outmanoeuvre the cutthroats before they cut her throat? There are twelve selfish lives in the hotel. Will it end in twelve selfish deaths? The Only Way Out is Death is a fascinating nov

Review - Shadow by James Swallow

Review - Shadow by James Swallow

Things are about to go viral in Marc Dane's most dangerous adventure yet . . . 

Marc and his partner - former US Delta Force sniper Lucy Keyes - are pitted against their most terrifying challenge yet, when a genius bio-researcher with the ability to create a deadly biological weapon is kidnapped by a ruthless terrorist. 

Their desperate search for the missing scientist takes them across the world, from the desolate wilderness of Iceland to the slums of the Near East and the dark underbelly of a fracturing Europe, where they will discover a shocking atrocity in the making. 

Backed by shadowy interests, a cadre of hardline ultra-right-wing extremists plan to unleash a lethal virus among the population of a major European city. 

Only Marc Dane can prevent this devastating attack from taking place - before a whole continent is plunged into terror...

You know how in the modern Bond/Bourne/Mission Impossible films we now have all that product placement? Subtle and not so subtle adverts for everything from cars to watches, while our well equipped heroes save the world?

Shadow does that too and it becomes increasingly annoying as the book goes on. Everything is branded, from Dane's Cabot dive watch and Nikon digitals to the Lenovo laptop they pick up cheaply on the streets. Assuming these companies haven't paid for this commercial consideration, I'm really not sure how to explain it. Is it because Bond does it, or are we meant to relate to our hero more easily if we recognise the kind of watch he's wearing?

There's not a lot else to relate to. As a character, Marc Dane is pretty dull. The only person in the book with any expressed beliefs or philosophy is our villain, Verbeke, and although he's passionate, he's full of hate, racism, misogyny. No one else seems to really believe in or care about much. Dane is haunted by past mistakes, and much is made of various characters having a darkness within their soul, or a raw animal savagery. It's terribly overblown and doesn't compensate for that fundamental lack of personality. 

The heroes are pretty bloody useless too. They manage to screw up every step of their operation and only save the day thanks to a combination of extraordinary luck and intervention they shouldn't have expected. But they do have lots of fancy high tech toys, which get them past more obstacles than is perhaps plausible. 

Oh, and there's a whole subplot that goes nowhere, except maybe the next book. All kept very mysterious with coded names building up to a big, and anticlimactic, reveal.

So much of this is just rich, powerful men being above the law. On one side we have a cabal of mysterious, shadowy figures running global operations to sow dissent. On the other side we have Rubicon, supposedly our good guys but basically just another rich man sending his minions around the world breaking laws, taking justice into their own hands with no regulations and no oversight. Rich corporations are above any nation states and laws, but that's okay because this one is nice.

Overblown and faintly ridiculous.


Shadow by James Swallow is out now, published by Bonnier Zaffre.

I was given a review copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.


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