Title: The Midnight Bell
Author: Jack Higgins
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: Rs 399
The book derives its title from the Irish proverb, ‘The bell rings at midnight, as death requires it’.
In Ulster, Northern Ireland, a petty criminal kills a woman in a drunken car crash. Her sons swear revenge. In London, Sean Dillon and his colleagues in the ‘PM’s private army’, fresh from defeating a deadly Al Qaeda operation, receive a warning – You may think you have weakened us, but you have only made us stronger. In Washington DC, a special projects director with the CIA, frustrated at not getting permission from the President for his daring anti-terrorism plan, decides to put it in motion anyway. In the Virgin Islands, former president, Jake Cazalet receives a warning. He is recovering after helping Sean Dillon and the rest of the private army defeat an Al Qaeda operation in London. Although Al Qaeda is weakened and facing competition from other extremist groups, it is far from ready to roll over and die, and they intend to let the world know. Soon, the ripples from all these events will meet and overlap, creating havoc in their wake at several places and in different parts of the world. Desperate men will act, secrets will be revealed – and the midnight bell will toll.
This is the 22nd book in the Sean Dillon series, although in this particular book he is more of a second or third string character. This thriller pits the former IRA assassin (Sean Dillon) against the new Al Qaeda leader, who calls himself the Master. Dillon took out the previous Master, and his successor is plotting revenge. Dillon’s allies include Vietnam vet Blake Johnson, who runs the Basement, the American president’s ‘personal security department’, Dillon’s cousin Hannah, a music student who is equally comfortable with keyboards and guns, and Sara Gideon, a much-decorated veteran. But this book can be read as a stand-alone and one need not worry about following these characters.
On seeing this Jack Higgins book, was quite excited since its been years since I read one and as a huge fan of Jack Higgins WWII books right from his Eagle has Landed. This tale though was more in keeping with present times in terms of a threat to the Western world, Al Qaeda, terrorism, exotic locales ranging from London, Washington DC, Ireland, etc.
In terms of grouses, the tale is quite complex and there are many characters. Keeping track of all the characters and subplots may not suit all tastes. Also, Sean Dillon and the other crew characters come across as a matter of fact in terms of shooting the baddies right between the eyes, completely unfazed by killing, as if they did what they had to do and have moved on.
But apart from this, Jack Higgins, often considered the architect of the modern thriller, comes up with an engaging and iconic thriller with a lot of twists and turns. The story is filled with terrorists with tons of money, no qualms in killing anyone who thwarts their plans, plus they seem to have the intelligence to outwit Sean Dillon and his colleagues. So, enjoy the new package of thrills and chills since Higgins sure knows how to tell a knife-edge story of terrorism and revenge.
Read this tale to see if the bell finally tolls for Sean Dillon…