Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy

A Master Thriller Writer Continues the Story

Tom Clancy, now with Grant Blackwood, continues to develop the story lines from his previous novels. He brings all his characters together in one book for the first time. They are aging well.

Multiple Story Lines Weave Intrigue, Action and Suspense

As with any of Clancy’s recent novels there are several threads to the story. They are introduced one by one without the connections being disclosed prematurely. The reader has to continue reading to discover the links. At no time do the separate story lines feel contrived and they come together in a natural way.

Similarly the characters are well drawn and consistent with their background in previous stories but Dead or Alive can stand alone. The reader does not need to be familiar with the previous work to enjoy the story. Unlike those of many other thriller writers, Clancy’s characters feel realistic; he does not take the easy route of making them super-human and master of too many skills. His characters are good at what they do and seem rounded people but they also have normal human frailties. As a result he has to weave the story around those weaknesses where other writers may give their character yet another skill. Consequently the story feels much more plausible than so many lesser thrillers.

Dead or Alive is based around the search for the Emir, the mastermind behind many previous terrorist attacks. There is no prize for guessing on who Clancy has used as the inspiration for his character. In this new story special operations experts, Dingo Chavez and John Clark, work with the Campus, a secret extra-governmental anti-terrorist organisation set up by President Jack Ryan, to hunt down the Emir and prevent his next, big atrocity.

In Dead or Alive Clancy and Blackwood keep the suspense going through intrigue rather than frequent recourse to fire-fights or other simplistic action scenes. There are fights and other violence but less than in many thrillers, Dead or Alive maintains and grows the suspense as a result.

Setting the Scene for the Future

The further one gets in to the story the more one becomes aware that there are small cameo scenes that fit with the story but are hardly critical. It starts to become clear that Clancy is setting the scene for the sequel to Dead or Alive. That in itself creates yet more intrigue that will drive the reader to finish Dead or Live to see where it is all going. There are hints but Clancy fans will be on tenterhooks for perhaps two years until the follow on novel arrives. Tom Clancy keeps the suspense going past the end of the book; Tom Clancy really is a master story-teller.

Tom Clancy fans will enjoy Dead or Alive as will any reader of thrillers who picks it up. It is a substantial volume but the story moves at such a pace that it never feels daunting. Once the reader has enjoyed Dead or Alive they will be left wanting the sequel.

Dead or Alive (2010, ISBN:978-0-718-15741-8) by Tom Clancy with Grant Blackwood is published in hardback by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin, at £20.


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