Book Reviews: Target The Hostage, Or Kill The Magistrate

December 19, 2016



The Magistrate of Gower by Claire Robertson       8

The Third Target by Joel C Rosenberg                    6

The First Hostage by Joel C Rosenberg                  6

Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet                                       7


Hendrik (Henry) Buchanan Vos is a handsome young Boer prisoner-of-war who is discovered in an illicit affair on a tea estate in Ceylon. He returns in disgrace to South Africa, qualifies in law and becomes a magistrate. In Gower he establishes himself as a respectable personage and is held in esteem. His sister forms part of his household. Here she is courted and Henry sees her married and settled on a farm. Another young woman, Adaira, arrives in the town, is drawn into the circle of women committed to the cause of Afrikaner nationalism and also becomes a friend and companion to Henry. A young Jewish trader sets up shop and meets with anti-Semitism. Both Henry and Adaira enter into relationships outside the boundaries of this small society. A court case over which he presides with great integrity is brought to a surprising end and he must leave the town. The Magistrate of Gower is a beautiful and compelling novel. Claire Robertson probes the issues of sexuality and attraction, friendship, intimacy and the boundaries set within a small society. The town is populated with entirely credible personalities. The dynamics of Afrikanerdom are brilliantly analysed. Having spent the post-war years in a small town, I find this novel believable and fascinating. I knew so many of these people. – RH


Joel C Rosenberg is an evangelical Christian, who has intimate knowledge of the Middle East and of modern armaments. The Third Target is one of a series of novels that describe the politics and strategies of Muslim fundamentalists. The book is written in the first person, that person being J B Collins, a journalist and foreign correspondent for the New York Times. He has been summoned to meet the Jordanian monarch. Instead, he is witness to the man’s assassination. This is the beginning of a fast-moving story in which Collins is involved on an ongoing and increasingly personal basis with the Jordanian monarchs and the men who surround them. He becomes aware of the ambitions of Isis to secure chemical weapons and begins a probe. Personal contact and observations deep in war-torn Syria convince him that the rumours are true. There is huge political pressure on him not to publish his findings but he is conscious that Western governments are not prepared to face the reality of the threat posed by Isis. A state visit by the President of the USA is imminent. The Jordanian monarchy is on high alert but there are obviously those within the court whose allegiances and religious commitments are suspect. Collins is in a tense relationship with his editor regarding the veracity of his reports and the decisions whether to publish or not. The novel reaches an extraordinary climax, leaving the reader waiting for the next episode. I find the first person style problematic. JB Collins is simply too present in all the action, too much the accomplished gun-fighter, too au fait with all that is happening. He is not a convincing character. On the other hand this is an exciting read and in terrifyingly real scenarios. – RH


The First Hostage is the second novel in what promises to be a trilogy. JB Collins, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, is at the heart of the gun-battle with which the previous novel, The Third Target, ended. The royal palace of Jordan is under siege by Isis forces. Heads of state and other dignitaries are wounded, dead or missing. Most horrifying is the disappearance of the President of the USA. The narrative is fast-paced, with thrills and spills and intrigue. And Collins’ close relationship with a beautiful Israeli secret agent. The complex plot involves the search and rescue operation for the President, the extraordinary courage and tactical skill of a Jordanian prince, a face-to-face meeting between Collins and the Khalif, leader of the Islamic State, the unfolding drama of a terrifying group in possession of sarin gas and the personal career of this intrepid journalist. Collins is rather too omnipresent and omniscient as well as too skilled as a fighter on the ground to be credible. While there is deep respect for the Muslim faith as professed and practised by Jordanian royal house, the total disregard for the adherents of Isis is frightening. They become, in combat, non-persons. This is a thrilling novel, a “page-turner” to use that cliche, demonstrating an deep knowledge of a region in a constant state of turmoil. Good guys and bad guys – perhaps a little too much so.  – RH


An amazing blend of Japanese Samurai traditions, World War II treasure hunting, customs and culture and a plot that is a moving target for the reader to keep track of, Tokyo Kill is a good read if Eastern mysticism, and red-blooded thrillers are your thing. An art dealer turned PI gets involved in a murder scene, becomes hunted by the killers and narrowly misses being sliced up in Samurai fashion. The author knows Japanese culture and traditions, the Chinese intrusion, the politics, and places his protagonist between two contesting factions. I like this book for two reasons: the thrills are ongoing to the very last; and there is much interesting background information given by the writer, who is obviously well-informed about the land of the Rising Sun. – DB