Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
Discounting an ultimate horror, this novel reads like a rip-roaring yarn out of ‘Boys’ Own Paper’ by Ian Fleming.
Explosive murders in a Barcelona police station serve as introduction to Nomad: undercover spawn of MI6, an elite group whose general purpose is to counter terrorism, and now directed to find and eliminate the organisation responsible for the Barcelona strike.
True to thriller tradition the “goodies”, for a crucial reason, are one step behind the terrorists and when the scene shifts to Dunkirk and the next strike, all Nomad’s key operatives are lost with the exception of one, Marc Dane.
For the reader there is little mystery; Marc survives because he is a series character. On making his way back to London he maintains that the Dunkirk massacre was set as a trap and that there has to be a mole in MI6. His superiors agree but target himself. He is suspended and well on the way to what he anticipates is rendition and oblivion but escapes and goes on the run.
Determined to avenge his colleagues and clear his own name, with nothing more than a laptop for assistance, Marc picks up the trail of the terrorists but in doing so leaves his own track. Now he has them to contend with as well as MI6 and its treacherous operatives. And a more shadowy presence appears to have joined the hunt: well-heeled, ruthless and ubiquitous. At opportune moments this shadow materialises in the person of a beautiful black sniper who, it transpires, is on Langley’s Wanted List.
And there are the terrorists: Middle Eastern zealots primarily but recruiting unsavoury mercenaries from anywhere. Racism and political incorrectness are rife. There is a vague theme: the motivation of the fanatics being to change the world, the plot concerned only with their defeat. The action is a game: thrust and counter-thrust, advance and retreat. There are fast switches in the narrative between hunters and the hunted: total exposure for the reader, except for the identity of the traitor in London, mystery and frustration for the characters. There are colourful changes in location: Sicily and Mount Etna (surely the crater must feature) and an exciting chase involving a quad bike and an SUV over the lava fields.
Highly topical; there are drones: hostile and friendly, lots of gun-play, and a final revelation that is outrageous yet convincing. Despite its resemblance to a video game Nomad grips the unsuspecting reader with claws like grapnels.