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Destroy after reading

Gadgets, babes and bombs. Tony Bradman stakes out a new crop of action thrillers

Thieves Like Us

By Stephen Cole

Bloomsbury pound;6.99

Jimmy Coates: Target

By Joe Craig

Harper Collins pound;5.99

The Power of Five: Evil Star

By Anthony Horowitz

Walker Books pound;6.99


By Andy McNab with Robert Rigby

Doubleday pound;10.99

I leapt from the chopper and landed on the flat roof of the TES building, abseiled down the outside, then smashed feet-first through a window on the 17th floor, scattering shards of hardened glass over the carpet.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," sighed the RE - that's Reviews Editor in civilian-speak. "There's a perfectly good entrance downstairs. And a lift."

"Sorry, boss," I breathed. "But you said the job was Priority One."

"So I did," she said, leaning across her big steel desk, her cold grey eyes reflecting the wall of screens behind me. "Well? Let's have it."

I wrenched open a side pocket of my combats, pulled out four PRDs - that's Portable Reading Devices, aka "books" - and dealt them out like a hand of cards. Word was that publishers were pumping out a new kind of book for boy teens, tough stuff using the techniques of grown-up thrillers. My job as a member of the covert ERT - that's Elite Reviews Team - was to do an in-depth sit-rep.

"I'll take them in ascending order of threat," I said. "I can see the pitch for Stephen Cole's Thieves Like Us; it's a cross between The X-Men and Charlie's Angels, with a side order of Mission Impossible. A master-criminal recruits teens with difficult pasts and special talents and sends them out on major heists. Good characters, including a couple of BSSKs - that's Babes in Short Skirts - and plenty of action, but way too much plot.

"Next up is Joe Craig's Jimmy Coates: Target, sequel to Jimmy Coates: Killer. This is more like The Bourne Identity crossed with The Matrix; a young hero on the run and battling the forces of oppression. Again, good characters, including a strong protagonist boys will identify with, as well as an interesting political dimension. But again, way too much plot. Don't these guys know that the best thriller plots are often very simple?"

I paused, peeled off my balaclava, pulled out my Heckler and Koch RP - that's Reviewer's Pen - and tapped its titanium top on the third title.

"Now this guy knows what he's doing," I said. "Horowitz has proved himself with the Alex Rider books, and with the first AR film coming in July he's going to be hard to stop. Evil Star is the second in a new series of OTs - that's Occult Thrillers - The Power of Five, an action-packed tale of ancient evil faced down by modern kids. Think Buffy crossed with The Da Vinci Code, but very dark, and you'll have an idea of its potential.

"And last, but definitely not least, there's Avenger. Ex-SAS man Andy McNab has plenty of previous, but mostly in the world of adult writing. He got his break with Bravo Two-Zero, then moved on to action thrillers, and there can hardly be a dad or grandad in the country who hasn't read at least a couple. You know the formula: GGA - Guns, Gadgets, Action - with enough insider knowledge to make it all feel like the real deal.

"Avenger is the follow-up to Boy Soldier, has a cutting-edge storyline about teenaged suicide bombers, strong language, and more acronyms than a set of DfES guidelines. McNab is now working with Robert Rigby, an accomplice with form in TV and theatre, and the pair of them look like a dream team. Boys will love it."

"Umm, I see..." said the RE after a while, her expression unreadable. "It's more serious than I thought. You know what this means, don't you?"

"Yes, boss,' I said with a sigh. With one bound I smashed headfirst through her other window, releasing my PGCL - Para Glide Chute Line - and scanned the cityscape for the next batch of thrillers.

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

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