"Java Spider" is an international thriller set in London and on a fictitious Indonesian island. Author Geoffrey Archer, who has experience from that part of the world, writes vivid accounts of how the repressive forces in Indonesia crush dissident movements. East Timor is mentioned as an example, and this book was published two years before the independence referendum in 1999 that resulted in an Indonesian scorched earth campaign that practically destroyed that country.
So the setting for "Java Spider" is scary to start with, and the vile events that take place and the descriptions of the "bad guys" add to the threatening mood of the book.
The story is about a British government Minister who is kidnapped in Indonesia, and then mistreated in an attempt to force the British government to do what the kidnappers want. But it's not clear who the kidnappers are, and there are hints of corruption in high places back in London.
A thriller needs one or more "good guys", and these roles are filled by Nick Randall and Charlotte (Charlie) Cavendish. Nick is a police detective with Scotland Yard and a former Army man with Far East experience. Charlie is a young but very ambitious reporter for a small London TV station.
The things I look for in a thriller are a good (believable) story set in an interesting environment, i.e., an environment that I can learn something about that I didn't know before. And I want the characters in the story, both the good guys and the bad guys, to resemble real people.
"Java Spider" meets my desires on all of these points. Especially the environment (Indonesia) and the characters are good. Nick and Charlie, the classical odd couple, are likeable and flawed, just like real people.
Only the story is a bit of a letdown. It's very exciting, high marks for that, but not very realistic or believable.
A high point in the story is when Nick and Charlie pretend they're newlyweds on their honeymoon, despite the fact that they don't really know each other (yet). Anything to confuse the opposition!
In summary, I liked "Java Spider" and am looking forward to reading more of Geoffrey Archer's thrillers.