Monday, 27 February 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Saul Marshall series by Richard Davis - SPOILER FREE REVIEWS

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the 'Never Forget' blog tour! 
The wonderful Faye Rogers contacted me at the start of the month and invited me to participate in this tour, and I jumped at the chance. I hadn't heard of the Saul Marshall series before, but I've been reading more crime and thriller books this year than ever before so I was in exactly the right mood for these novels. 
I'm going to be reviewing 'False Prophet' and 'Never Forget' today. Both reviews will be as spoiler free as possible, but the events of the first book do impact upon the second so I will be giving some of the story away.

'Aaron Woolf sat down for breakfast, opened his newspaper, and read his obituary.' 
A guy reading his own obituary? Tell me that's not one of the most gripping first sentences you've ever read. It leaves you feeling instantly unsettled, and makes it impossible to put the book down until you know exactly how that could have come to pass.

A psychotic terrorist has his son. He will do anything to save him.
When a rogue cult turns deadly, the FBI call on former conman Agent Saul Marshall. FALSE PROPHET introduces a gripping new series from thriller writer Richard Davis. 
Marshall is soon drawn into a cat and mouse chase with the leader of the cult, Ivan Drexler. As the scale of Drexler's terrorist ambition becomes ever clearer, news arrives that he has taken Marshall's son hostage. Removed from the line of duty, he must work alone, off-grid.
As the attacks intensify, Saul will stop at nothing to defeat Drexler.
But the FBI are questioning Saul's own part in the carnage. He must work fast to save both his country and his life. Can Saul stop the carnage before it's too late? And can he save his son?
As wave after wave of attacks break, the clock is ticking for Saul.

This was so close to getting four stars, but a couple of things didn't work for me. I can't discuss one of those here, because it's a HUGE spoiler - literally the last chapter of the book - so I'll probably end up writing a spoilery review in a couple of days, because I have a lot of thoughts about that ending that I want to go further into. 
The non-spoilery aspect that made this book an uncomfortable read was the constant info dumping. Richard Davis has obviously done a lot of research, because he knows an insane amount about the inner workings of the FBI and the CIA, but the reader gets told ALL of it. There are pages upon pages of irrelevant information, Saul mentally commenting on the exact make, model and size of cars, guns and planes, but none of it furthers the plot. It shows that Richard has planned every aspect of his story, making it absolutely faultless, but it's not necessary for the reader to know every tiny detail. It doesn't bring it to life, it just makes things clunky.
Other than that I really enjoyed this novel.
It's easy to relate to Saul's plight: because the Order of Babylon have his son, he has to decide whether to put family loyalty above his commitment to the job, and it's an internal struggle that plagues him throughout the story. He had to abandon Samuel before he was born, so he doesn't want to abandon his son again, but as it starts seeming likely that Samuel himself is a cultist which makes Saul's decision even trickier.
At points Saul verges into antihero territory, but that comes with the training: as a member of the FBI he is ruthless and unemotional when it coems to killing, which is harrowing to read when he's supposed to be the good guy. Richard Davis pulls no punches, allowing us to see both the good and bad sides of the law enforcement.
The extended cast of characters are all strong, and it's going to be great to encounter them again in the future. Vann's dry wit brightens up even the most harrowing scene, while Mort's father-like affection towards the man that he arrested shows that criminals deserve love too: he's the only reason Saul got a second chance, and even though he makes mistakes he ultimately saves more lives than he sacrifices.
This is a very quick read. If you're hoping to read a book that grabs you by the throat, stuffed with relentless action and heart-thumping tension throughout, you'll adore the Saul Marshall novels. Despite being disappointed with the ending, I automatically picked up the second book: it's impossible to take a break between these stories, because you're left with so many questions about what can have happened to Saul. 

Now for my thoughts on the sequel, 'Never Forget'. The end of 'False Prophet' does impact upon the events of the second novel, so if you want to avoid anything vaguely spoilery, look away now

'Crouching among the dumpsters, her body pressed against the cold brickwork, Juliette Dein contacted the man who'd come to kidnap her sister.'
Okay, Richard Davis has a skill at writing a killer opening line. These two are some of the best that I've encountered. He's certainly not afraid to kick start his novels with a huge dose of adrenaline. 

Saul Marshall is on the run.
As a wave of seemingly random assassinations engulfs California, Marshall finds himself drawn into a situation spiralling out of control.
He soon discovers some of the webs' most secure protocols have been compromised by a rogue team of former Chinese agents. When Marshall realises what they plan, the stakes are raised...
And that's before the Secretary of State gets involved. Can Marshall unravel the deceit and tricks before it's too late? Can he stop the carnage, or will he become part of it? One thing is for certain: either way his enemies will never forget.

This installment uses Saul's past as a conman to its full potential. He's constantly trying to deceive the people who are hunting him, and it's great to see him doing what he does best (and really makes me want a prequel novel of his adventures in con artistry!). It plays up the USP, and for someone who's read a lot of repetitive crime and thriller novels, that was great to see.
I have nothing to complain about when it comes to 'Never Forget'. All of the things I just discussed in regards to 'False Prophet' are irrelevant when it comes to the second novel in the series. The conclusion is satisfactory yet still leaves you wanting more, while the info-dumping is appropriate, as Saul teams up with a civilian called Ellen Kelden and she needs to be caught up. Instead of getting the information thrown at us, we learn with her: it's a more gentle way to introduce some complex theories.  
Despite the fact that Saul's now in California, there are plenty of familiar faces for us to get reacquainted with. I particularly enjoyed the reappearance of Vann, who was one of my favourite members of the supporting cast in book one, and the more central role of background character Scott Brendan. It seems Richard has plans for all of his characters, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to all of them in further volumes in the series. 
I loved the focus on technology: particularly the discussions about hacking, and how even seemingly foolproof methods of concealing your activities on the internet are vulnerable. It's terrifying, particularly when you look at the way the political landscape is at this current moment in time. Anyone could be watching your activity, and you have no way of knowing... *shudders*

My final thoughts about the Saul Marshall series are that it's worth sticking with. It's difficult to talk about in too much detail without giving away major plot points, but if you're unsatisfied with the first novel just try the first few pages of 'Never Forget': it'll grab you, and you'll be halfway through before you realise. It's just that good. 
All of the complaints I had about the first novel became null and void. Richard made a lot of development with his writing between the two, but you can't just start with the second installment. It's imperative that you read the first novel to get the back story and to really understand what's going through Saul's mind: the two plots are separate and could be enjoyed as standalone stories, but the character development is so much better in context. 
I wish the third book was already out, because I was enjoying binge reading these! 

About the author:

Richard Davis graduated from University College London in 2011 and Cambridge University in 2012.
The Saul Marshall series was born from Davis's extensive travels around the United States and his long-standing obsession with thriller fiction.
He lives in North London, UK, with his girlfriend.

Thanks once again to Faye Rogers for inviting me to participate in this blog tour - I hope you enjoyed my stop! Be sure to check out the rest of the posts on the tour: they're all absolutely brilliant. 

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