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PUBLISHED: 13:25 29 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:09 10 October 2012

THEN A SOLDIER by John Templeton Smith (Pocket Books, £6.99)

THEN A SOLDIER by John Templeton Smith(Pocket Books, £6.99) Review by Mike HoweThe latest tale from ferry pilot, novelist and regular contributor to Pilot over the years is a good, old-fashioned knock-them-down action for the thriller addict.

The story, which shows every sign of having been thoroughly researched, is set in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and is very even-handed in its approach. All sides are presented with sympathy and understanding—and a shrewd assessment of motive.

I found the author’s tendency to break up his sentences rather distracting, a telegraphic style where sentences frequently begin with personal verbs. The dialogue occasionally lapses into cliché.

However the dangers and tensions which daily face a British soldier working under cover in Northern Ireland are graphically and movingly conveyed, and I soon found myself engrossed. The author is at his best when most subtle. Early suggestions of an across-the-divide affair are understated and affecting, but later sex scenes I personally found a teeny bit clumsy and at times just a little embarrassing – black lace panties and soft breasts hovering. Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris and Stealing Beauty) would no doubt enjoy directing these scenes! The whole book is very cinematic and would translate very effectively to the screen.

When the hero flees to Scotland to escape assassination, the narrative assumes something of a John Buchan air – no bad thing – and for this reader slightly lost credibility. It remained gripping enough to keep me reading through to the conclusion.

In the end I felt that I had gained some insight into the emotional and procedural lives of SAS and IRA operatives. Pilot readers will probably find the flying scenes (in a Cessna 210) the most exciting.

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