My last book of 2007 was an action-packed read by new Australian author Mark Abernethy.
I heard Mark speak at the Brisbane Writers' Festival this year, and then read a few reviews talking up his debut novel, Golden Serpent, so I thought I'd check it out.
It's been a while since I've read a spy thriller, but I can still say this is one of the best offerings from that genre I've read - possibly the best.
Probably the most likeable aspect of the story - a complex plot involving terrorist and political machinations in South East Asia - is that the hero is fallible - and not in a cliched way.
It also helps that he's Australian and the action takes place on Australia's doorstep. The conspiracies and espionage at the heart of the story give a fascinating glimpse of Australia's involvement in post September 11 intelligence activities in the Pacific region.
In what looks like being the first of a series of thrillers featuring Alan 'Mac' McQueen (he lives up to the name, don't worry), Abernethy creates a world where tough men cry, wounds actually hurt, and the bad guys don't all have foreign passports.
The prose is tight, the narrative lean, and exposition provided through believable dialogue between multi-dimensional characters. Abernethy definitely doesn't talk down to his readers, and the Australian attitudes and slang make for some lighter moments. The author also knows his stuff, and writes with firm authority.
OK, so this was a very blokey read - and I couldn't put it down. No doubt the film option for Golden Serpent has already been snatched up, so it probably won't be long before Mac makes it to the big screen.
You can find out more about Mark Abernethy at http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=311&author=192 and more about Golden Serpent at http://www.alanmcqueen.com/books.html