Title: The Yemen Contract
Author: Arthur Kerns
Publisher: Diversion Publishing
Publication Date: 28 June 2016
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley
The light from the merciless desert sun can cloak the most potent of weapons.
CIA operative Hayden Stone has his work cut out for him. Abdul Wahab seeks to make a power grab in the exotic land of Yemen and establish a terrorist base from which to launch an attack on Europe.
Wahab lures Stone to Yemen by kidnapping his partner CIA officer Sandra Harrington in Sicily. Stone comfortably operates in this world where tribal leaders vie for power with the central government, al Qaeda exerts its influence through murder and mayhem, and double-dealing among Bedouin and townspeople is a national pastime.
The cat and mouse game goes from the capital Sana’a, to the deserts in the far east of the country, and to the mountain villages in the north. Stone has a personal stake in this mission, but can never keep his eye off of the greater plot developing, the one that puts millions in peril, and that only he can stop.
I had never heard of Arthur Kerns or Hayden Stone when I requested this book on NetGalley. I picked it up solely based on the cover. I know we’re never supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I do all the time. And that was my main reason for picking up this book. It’s a spy thriller and it has a nice cover, that’s all I knew about it so I went in with no real expectations.
The Yemen Contract is Arthur Kerns’ third novel featuring retired CIA operative Hayden Stone. When CIA officer Sandra Harrington is kidnapped in Sicily, her retired partner Hayden Stone is called in to get her back. Stone finds that the kidnap was a trap to lure to him to Sicily where his nemesis Abdul Wahab can get his revenge and get Stone out of the way while he continues on with his terror plot.
The main thing that struck me about this book as I read it is that Kerns’ style really reminds me of Daniel Silva. There was that same combination of spy stuff with a little bit of culture. Obviously they still have their differences, but I felt that Stone was pretty similar to Gabriel Allon and Contessa Lucinda was almost a dead ringer for Chiara. I really like Daniel Silva’s books and Arthur Kerns is the first author I have come across that has a similar feel, so I thought that was pretty cool.
I found the general plot idea to be pretty interesting. I liked the idea of a terrorist plot used as a cover for more material purposes, as opposed to the stock standard terrorism stories you usually see in the genre. However I felt that the story was quite jumpy and disorienting in places. To me, it felt like the story didn’t quite flow seamlessly but rather it jumped from place to another and that made it hard to get truly engaged with it. There were also little parts of the story that just felt out of place to me, for example the bird watching scene, and those dampened my enjoyment of the book.
There were little tidbits of action throughout and for the most part they were believable, which is a plus. However I feel that there could have been more action scenes, especially considering there was one that was pretty important to the story that was just mentioned and not shown at all, which was a little bit of a disappointment. But what action was there was good.
The characters were a little bit hit and miss for me. I found Stone to be quite an interesting character but the Contessa really annoyed me and I don’t really know why. Maybe it was just that she was too perfect or maybe it was because there was too much of her in the middle and later parts of the book when Stone was out chasing Wahab, but she got on my nerves a bit. I feel like the book might have flowed a bit better if she appeared less throughout the middle parts of the book.
All in all, The Yemen Contract is a book that just didn’t quite do it for me. I enjoyed the similarities in Kerns’ writing to Daniel Silva but the story was too disjointed for me to get sucked into it. However I am looking forward to giving Hayden Stone another chance to win me over when the next book comes out.
Worth a read? If you’re a fan of Daniel Silva and his style of spy thrillers, then you’ll find Arthur Kerns and The Yemen Contract is probably worth a read. Kerns is the first author I have come across that has a similar feel to Silva and Gabriel Allon.