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I have been on a bit of a spy fiction binge of late. I gave this one a try because I really don't know much about Chinese anything at all. This book was really very good and I have to say, I would compare it favorably to Le Carre, who seems to be the spy fiction standard bearer. I have read a lot of Le Carre's books so I think I can say this honestly. It is not as long or involved as a LC book, but compares similarly in the bleak, lonely, dark, morally vague attributes of a LC novel. It is not uplifting in the sense that all the players lead somewhat disconnected lives. The main character is drawn into a vortex he does not ask for and he is also sucked into the loneliness that seems to be the spy trade. The character who starts this whole operation into motion is an escaped convict from a Chinese re-education camp and he is fascinating. The atmosphere in Bejing, the food and street smells are vivid. This is a good listen, but don't listen if you are terribly depressed. Only if you like a good, honest spy yarn. Their are dangling threads that are still dangling after second book, but that actually makes it even more believable. It's China after all. The narrator is great – reminded me of Michael Jayston and I wish he would have narrated the second book in the series. More about that on the Spy Games review.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Night Heron again? Why?
I would listen to Night Heron again. Though it the plot moved along quickly, Brookes managed to include quite a lot of detail (as far as fiction goes) on the workings of China's state security apparatus, which is seldom found in spy thrillers.
What does Jason Isaacs bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Jason Isaacs had a good pace, but his Chinese was terrible in the small quips that are thrown in here and there throughout the story (always well translated into the narrative). This shortcoming won't matter much to those that don't speak any Chinese, but might bother speakers of the language.
Any additional comments?
Night Heron is not only a great book, it's also an important contribution to contemporary spy fiction. Very few books, to my knowledge, deal with actors from China in contemporary espionage thrillers. This book not only deals with China's spy infrastructure, but also introduces important elements of recent Chinese history and draws in issues of private sector presence in a once state-dominated sector. Though the story is slightly choppy in its delivery (the books rather short, and moves almost too fast), it's very much worth the read/listen. I look forward to new entries in the series, and hope that Brookes takes more time to add further dimension and detail to the complex historical and global linkages that he unearths in his narrative.
Highly recommend this first time author and former BBC journalist!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful