This was one of those desperation buys that turned out well - stopped in a thrift store to grab something that looked interesting, just to have something to read over dinner. I'm not much a fan of political-type thrillers, and the reference to Ludlum on the cover almost put me off, but something about the description convinced me it was worth at least spending a few hours with.
Hugo Fitzduane is a former member of an Irish elite military force-turned-war photographer, and when he's not traipsing the globe taking pictures he lives in a remote island off the coast of Ireland, in a castle that has been in his family for hundreds of years. Not a cushy, plushly-appointed castle - a place designed for military defense and not all that updated for modern convenience. Oh, and chock-full of weaponry of all sorts, both antique and modern. Seems the Fitzduanes are fond of collecting things that go boom. Also sharing the island is a sort of finishing school for children of wealthy parents, who for one reason or another feel their kids need the place's odd mix of traditional education, physical challenge, and obscure location.
When Fitzduane happens on the body of a student who has hanged himself and is compelled to investigate what led to the young man's death, he is drawn into a mystery that will tax every skill he has learned just to keep up with his quarry, a sadistic international terrorist whose inexplicable game warps everyone he encounters.
The good parts: What kept me engaged was the characters and their interaction - the mature, loving relationship of Hugo and his long-time girlfriend Etan; the insubordinate but highly capable Swiss police officer, Bear; Hugo's former superior, Kilmara, who is very good at his job as head of Ireland's national anti-terrorist group when not obstructed by politicians. And the book is FUNNY in places - often the sort of gallows humor you find among compatriots working at a difficult task or in a stressful field. I also enjoyed the depiction of life in Bern, Switzerland, where murder is extremely uncommon, and a series of violent deaths upsets not just those directly affected, but the order of the whole city. I also appreciated the inclusion of women amid the fighting - not just as non-participants needing to be protected, but as tough and wily fighters themselves.
The bad parts: over-the-top, gloatingly evil, sadistic bad guy, and accompanying gore galore. Gratuitous sex. I like a good sex scene, but really? Hugo goes around getting boners as readily as a kid half his age, and virtually every woman he meets
wants to have sex with him. (Being a one-woman-man, though, he resists, managing even to avoid offending the rejected women. A paragon among men!)
Too much dwelling on military hardware for me, but I'm sure devotees of the genre would delight in the details.