Friday 10 April 2020



WHEN HEADHUNTER BECOMES THE HUNTED (a concise, pacy read): Nick Thorneycroft is a British headhunter working in Luxembourg. His company asks him to recruit a high-flying executive for the company's Russian business. The best candidate turns out to be smart, beautiful... and mysterious. Soon the effects of Russia’s political upheaval, and the arrival of an ex-girlfriend who won’t leave him alone, make Nick’s Luxembourg life increasingly perilous; worlds collide in this gripping, atmospheric tale.

"A very readable Euro thriller with a strong sense of setting. This is well worth a read, and has shades of Elmore Leonard and other hard-boiled American detective writers. But it’s also up to date, with an insight into modern Euro-crime which is all too accurate." Katharine Quarmby, award-winning writer, TV producer and journalist

"I can see the film in my head. It's a great visual piece of work – fantastic and rare location" Caro Ramsay

Second time around for me in the absence of another shortish Audible book that I could listen to during the work day. I liked it a bit better second time around, with the narrator's accents and tones less grating on me.

Our main character is Nick, who is attempting to recruit a Russian candidate for a position at his ambitous company. There's strong competition from a business rival for the services of Kate, as Nick refers to her, as well as interest from some aggressive foreign agents. Nick's a pawn in a game of spies.

A date rape drug, surveillance, spy cameras, an annoying girlfriend - who might not be all she seems, a beautiful job applicant, pushy bosses, pubs and casinos, a missing dog, a kidnapping, a beating and interrogation, a resistance hero still doing his bit, Russian agitation, rumours and politics and agents keen on suppression of the opposition. It's quite a busy book to be honest.

Elements of humour, better characterisation than I initially gave the author credit for and a reasonable plot. Glad I re-read it.

3.5 from 5

Daniel Pembrey's work has been enjoyed before.
Pembrey's The Harbour Master  The Harbour Master II: The Maze and The Harbour Master III: Ransom were enjoyed back in 2014 and 2015 and Initiation: Amsterdam,'83 in 2018

Read (re-read) - (listened to) March, 2020
Published - 2013
Page count - 142 (3 hrs 1 min)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

* Less flattering remarks from the first time I read this below......

 I've enjoyed Daniel Pembrey's work before with his Harbour Master series, but sadly on this occasion not this one. I think The Candidate pre-dates the ones I've enjoyed.

It was an Audible version which may have contributed a bit to my overall state of apathy regarding the book, as the narration grated, especially when encountering Russian characters in the story. I couldn't help but think of the comedy series Allo Allo every time our accent deviated from the gruff Northern tone of Nick Thorneycroft. Over-exaggerated in my opinion thus losing any potency they may have had.

My main issue though was a lack of investment in the story. It wasn't badly written, it flowed and had a few things going on - headhunter Nick is trying to get a Russian candidate lined up for a high profile position at his money management company in Luxembourg. It's a race to get the deal done, before she's poached by a rival. He wakes up one morning with a limited memory of the night before and a pair of women's knickers on his apartment floor, but no women. Has he been spiked? Is there a spy camera in his ceiling light? Who is the Russian, what's her background? Why is his on/off on/off girlfriend pestering him and back in town? Why does he get temporarily kidnapped? What are the motives of his bosses at the firm, one keen and eager to get the deal done, the other a bit less frantic?
What's the imminent Russian election got to do with things? Why did I care about any of this?

I didn't.

This might work better for others than me. Well from the comment above from Katharine Quarmby shows it definitely does. But a comparison with Elmore Leonard? Really - not for me anyway.

2.5 from 5

Pembrey's The Harbour Master  The Harbour Master II: The Maze and The Harbour Master III: Ransom were enjoyed back in 2014 and 2015

Read (listened to) - September, 2018
Published - 2013
Page count - 142 (3 hours 1 minute Audio time)
Source - Audible purchase probably free or on a free trial
Format - Audio via laptop and iPhone

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