Don Winslow


"Satori is a world-class thriller...'"


It is Sugamo Prison in Japan, October 1951. The twenty-six year old Nicholai Hel has spent the last three years in solitary confinement for the murder of his mentor. An assassin and scholar, he has developed a supreme awareness of danger and when he is suddenly offered the chance of freedom, this awareness goes on high alert.

Overseen by Haverford, his American spymaster, and the gorgeous and mysterious Solange he must go to Beijing and kill the Soviet Union’s commissioner to China. This is effectively a suicide mission he has no option but to accept.

His mission takes him from the corruption of Beijing to the shadows of the Vietnam jungle; not knowing who is his enemy or if he has any friends. He is working in a world of betrayal and chaos, hunting a man he discovers he would want to kill anyway, whether he was being paid or not. All the while a formidable adversary known only as The Cobra has been set loose on him.

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Those mystery fans of a certain age will have come across the redoubtable Nicholai Hel through the work of the old master of Thrillers, Trevanian and his novel “Shibumi” (1979). When I heard Don Winslow had taken up the baton I couldn’t have been more excited. The mantle of a legendary novelist is assumed up by one of the most exciting writers working in the genre today. What’s not to love? The really good news is its absolutely fantastic. It’s a real shame the 'star' system we employ here at Crimesquad only goes up to five. This book has everything the fan of the spy novel could ask for. High –octane action, fight set-pieces as carefully choreographed as anything Jackie Chan put on the big screen and scenes that take us to almost every exotic location on the planet. Hel, himself is a wonderful character. One of my favourites ever to run across the pages of a book. He is part Russian, part Japanese. He is a scholar and a linguist and an assassin who makes James Bond appear like a heavy-handed buffoon. Winslow is a fine prose stylist and in this outing he demonstrates his versatility by adopting the more straightforward approach of Trevanian; an approach that is more suitable to this sub-genre given the characters and locations. One of the pleasures of Shibumi was Trevanian’s depiction of the eastern mind-set and Winslow proves he is equally adept at describing this. Satori blends the cultural heritage of Japanese society with Buddhist influences, set amid the oppressive politics of 1950's Maoist China and the chaos of Vietnam. Then for added flavour we have the running motif of life in the form of the Japanese board game of Go; a beautiful, deadly woman, Hel’s supernatural ability to sense people; and a hilariously melodramatic Basque dwarf who provides intelligence for our hero. The result of Winslow’s effort to pay respect to the achievement of Trevanian, while bringing the character to life in the new century is nothing short of remarkable. Winslow's attention to historical detail is fascinating and it's seamlessly stitched to a relentless plot which compels the reader onwards. Satori is a world-class thriller; I defy any fan not to enjoy it. Until now Don Winslow has been the genre’s best kept secret, with Satori he is about to go mainstream.

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