A twisted, violent, exotic and wonderfully painful thriller in the form of Rob Sinclair’s book, The Red Cobra, brings back an existing hero with a new name. I loved Sinclair’s blend of existing tropes to create a unique sub-genre that’s riveting, captivating, emotional and complex. The downside is the confusion I felt during the chaotic action scenes that could have been written much better.
Sinclair mixes the best styles of the legendary authors like: Ian Fleming’s femme fatale, beautifully written torture scenes, and exotic locations; Robert Ludlum’s complex plots, unexpected twists, conspiracy styles and the lone but highly capable operative; and Lee Child’s foreshadowing, suspense/mystery, slow beginning, and twist at the finale that turns the book upside down.
The Red Cobra is the first book in a series based on James Ryker, a former JIA operative( The Joint Intelligence Agency is Sinclair’s fictional unit controlled by both the UK and the US). Ryker is the new identity of Carl Logan, an early protagonist of Sinclair’s in his Enemy trilogy. When Ryker is spending his metaphorical afterlife on a desolated beach with his lover, he is pulled back into action by his former boss Peter Winter.
A pregnant civilian named Kim Walker is murdered brutally in the Spanish countryside. Ryker is hired off-the-books to investigate this as the JIA believes that Kim is actually Anna Abavey, a legendary assassin known as the Red Cobra. But Ryker knows that Kim isn’t Anna as he had a past with the Red Cobra.
Under the cover of a private consultant, Ryker is sent to Spain to find and kill The Red Cobra. The first half of the book flows like a classic detective mystery story filled with lies, double-crosses and treachery. Soon the people involved start dying and Ryker gets caught up in a nefarious plot that comprises the Georgian Bratva (Mafia) that is connected to scams and hackers.
Caught in a battle between the Red Cobra and the Bratva, Ryker is chasing leads, failing to protect people and caught in a game of life and death. The finale is bloody, chaotic, confusing but refreshing.
Anna Abavey/The Red Cobra’s history comes in flashback sequences which are emotionally heart wrenching and deceptive. I felt that she is the most well-developed character in the story but all the supporting characters are fleshed out significantly with different complexities.
Though the first half may feel a bit vanilla, the second half is dark, violent and twisted enough to create a compelling story. But I feel that the ending was very hurried and could have been longer. The climax opens new doors for a sequel that you’ll be inclined to get your hands on.