The Cobra Hardcover – Aug 17 2010
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About the Author
Frederick Forsyth is the author of fourteen novels and short story collections, from 1971's The Day of the Jackal to 2003's Avenger. A former pilot and print and television reporter, he has had five movies made from his works, and a television miniseries.
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From the formulation of the basic desire of the president and with an executive order in hand Mr. Deveraux begins his prep work of building the organization he will need to combat the world cocaine trade and try to stop it. The book does go into detail on this organization building and research performed on the cocaine trade. We the reader are also introduced to the inner workings of the cocaine trade from the inside and can watch the actions and reactions of both sides as the book progresses. The realistic action in the book spans the cocaine using world.
All the above mentioned background is told in great detail and takes about half the book to get us where most readers of action want to be, the actual operation. The reader is privy to the operations as they take place and the cocaine organizations response as these operations to destroy the cocaine industry unfolds. A calculated plan of action with a plot that is easy to read. The background of the inner details we learned earlier about the formation of the anti-drug teams and the drug cartel bear fruits as the story unfolds. A rich yet violent work of fiction that is filled with accurate facts on existing governmental agencies and their capabilities.
I am delighted, though sleep deprived, for the reading. "The Cobra" is an excellent thriller and strongly reminds one of Forsyth's breakthrough hit "Day Of The Jackal".
Forsyth introduces us to a not even disguised Obama suddenly becoming outraged at the toll cocaine is taking of young people. The depiction is so out of character that I almost stopped reading. I am glad I didn't, because the Obama character is invoked again later in the novel to great effect.
The story is, in a way, simple. An old CIA hand, Paul Devereuax, known as the "cobra" for his ruthlessness and cunning, is call out of retirement to quash by every and any means possible the cocaine trade. A Rahm Emmanuel clone gives Devereuax his assignment and the interchange is in a wry way, hilarious. Devereaux demands and gets plenipotentiary powers to conduct his operation. His first recruit is Cal Dexter, who outsmarted Devereaux in another long ago Forsyth novel.
Anyone looking for character development in Devereaux and Dexter will be disappointed. This is more a procedural, with the emphasis on the moves plotted by Devereaux. In reality, more time and words are spent on developing the Columbian bad guys who control the growing, harvesting, processing and distribution of approximately 600 tons of cocaine a year, mainly to the US and Europe.
The detail obsessed will appreciate Forsyth's extensive research into the cocaine trade and the ingeniousness and ruthlessness with which it is done.
For a thriller, there are a few thrills. For the first half or so of the book, Devereaux and Dexter are laying the groundwork to destroy the Columbian kingpin and his organization. Nearly all the second half is given to the routine and highly unlawful destruction of the cocaine trade by Devereaux's small forces and those off its allies.
If you're looking for blood and gore, there's not much here. On the other hand, if you're able to appreciate an unsparing look at the cocaine trade and why it prospers and a rather unbelievable - though to be wished for - offensive against it, this is an excellent book.
The ending came as a surprise to me, but made all the sense in the world given the story. Good stuff.
It is not a typical thriller by any stretch. But it is the best Forsyth has done in a long time. I found it irresistible and sacrificed some sleep to finish reading it.
The story starts in 2010 with the current administration in the White House, but manages to keep partisan politics - on either end - in check. The president, troubled by the death of a staff worker's grandson to cocaine, asks for a comprehensive briefing on the cocaine trade. Enter Paul Devereaux, the reclusive and ruthless former CIA counterintelligence operative known as Cobra. In a nutshell, the prez wants to know if cocaine can be stopped, and what it would take. Devereaux answers affirmatively - given $2B and virtual free reign to act without interference from an alphabet soup of nosey government agencies. So given the go ahead, Cobra assembles his team, including New Jersey lawyer Cal Dexter as his chief of staff, the "tunnel rat" Forsyth readers will remember from "Avenger." The Devereaux/Dexter team pulls some cool stunts with reconfigured grain transport ships, retired war planes, and Navy SEALs, driving Columbian drug lord Don Esteban to murder and much worse while keeping the pages turning.
With shades of Clancy's "Clear and Present Danger," Forsyth's fare is more ambitious, broader, more complex, and technically more interesting - closer to "Red Storm Rising" in scale. But while the Columbian drug cartels and their gang-banger customer-dealers are evil enough, the knock-out punch seems to get pulled each time the thugs are on the ropes. Not that there isn't enough bloodshed, violence, or depravity - plenty and more of that - but when droned in a near documentary-like cadence, the impact is hardly visceral. And while the enormity of the problem must be somewhat trivialized to fit is a standard length novel, I couldn't help get the feeling that Forsyth found himself in a bit over his head half way through, requiring some shortcuts and short hand in rushing to a finish that didn't quite hang together.
So is it worth it? yeah, mostly - Frederick Forsyth can always be counted on for reliable entertainment with some education along the ride. And maybe with another author, where my expectations weren't as high as for this venerable writer not so high, I'd easily throw in another star. But if you're looking for an alternative read that captures the real agony and frustration of the drug wars, Don Winslow's "Power of the Dog" is still the standard bearer.
I am a bit surprised at the number of negative reviews concerning Frederick Forsyth's new novel The Cobra. It is a typical well crafted, meticulous Forsyth techno-thriller on how to destroy the huge illicit worldwide cocaine network. Written in the vein of a Tom Clancy novel, Mr. Forsyth spends a great deal of time explaining how the Cobra, a retired CIA agent brought back into service by the President, will destroy the cocaine market, and then sets about doing it. A cerebral kind of story without much overt action but still an amazing read.
There are two kinds of literary action: That which is conjured up by the mind and that which is graphically portrayed through the written word. Frederick Forsyth's The Cobra is the former. Mr. Forsyth is a master of the tale. Without graphic or gratuitous violence or action, Mr. Forsyth is able through the written word alone bring depth and action to a unique tale that has deviled and perplexed mankind for years: How to stop cocaine drug trafficking. Mr. Forsyth accomplishes this through a logical examination of the cocaine trade and then pinpoints its inherent distribution flaws. Through smart, insightful, deductive writing he then presents an interesting way to disrupt and eventually destroy the cocaine trade through its own inherent corruption. Mr. Forsyth is absolutely brilliant in his reasoning and logic.
The downside is the lack of the graphic action that permeates most action thrillers today. Without that adrenalin rush, many readers are left flat and frustrated as many of the reviews of this fine novel show. If one thinks back to John Le Carre, Ian Fleming, or earlier Frederick Forsyth novels this was how those fine books were written: Building complex plots through limited action using the intellect of the mind. Like the formulistic movies today, most readers need the gratuitous chase scene, hot love making, massive shootouts, a cut throat or two, and the requisite fight scene to deem a novel an action thriller today. So be it, to each his, or her, own. I still enjoy a novel that requires a little work and is enjoyable by presenting a well thought-out plot.
No gratuitous violence, sex, or language. Character development was mediocre at best. As I immensely enjoy novels where the author develops his characters, this novel was not about that. It was about designing a way to stop cocaine trafficking. In that respect Mr. Forsyth accomplished his goal.
I like Frederick Forsyth and highly recommend The Cobra if you want a well thought-out "thinking person's" suspense thriller. If you want non-stop action this novel will probably bore you to tears. Interesting duel twist at the end that will leave the reader satisfied although a little disturbed by the federal government's reaction to the collapse of the cocaine market. As always I look forward to the next Forsyth novel.
The mood you need to be in to read this book is the same you would need to be in to enjoy, really enjoy, an episode of the original Mission: Impossible TV series. It's not about characters. Another reviewer mentioned that there is very little dialog. Yes! Stephen King points out that the #1 function of dialog in a book is to develop character. In a book with almost no dialog, there's very little character development. There is more description of people and places. But as I have come to expect from Forsyth, the greatest amount of description is given to the hardware. I have a far better visual image of any of two ships, two fast-moving boats, one helicopter, or one combat aircraft than I have of all the characters in the novel combined. Forsyth has always loved his hardware, especially if it goes bang. In other novels he loved his characters, if not equally, at least more than he does here.
So as a novel it's a story, pretty sparsely told, just the facts, ma'am. But what really disappoints is the ending scenario. NO SPOILER HERE, I thought it was a crushing letdown. I thought the lead character acted in a completely implausible way in the situation that evolved. I thought the lead villain acted only marginally less inconsistently with his character as it had been developed previously. I thought the scenario itself was ridiculous, more the inspiration of Forsyth's dyspepsia than anything else. Most serious, it was a novelist's cop-out: it was a way to end the novel and sell the copies without the hard work of pondering what the genuine outcome of his entire complicated plot might have been.
So to the rub. If you are looking for mind-candy after a really tough week, just something to blow out your cylinders, and you can handle a letdown of an ending, this is mind-candy that's relatively satisfying, even though it leaves a bad aftertaste. If you want a read after which you will smile and beam fond wishes in the direction of the author in exchange for the great story you just enjoyed, look on. Most other books by this author, or any by a Mystery Writers Association Grand Master, will please you better.