Osama by Chris Ryan
Chris Ryan is the pen name of a former member of the British special forces, turned novelist, Colin Armstrong. He came to public prominence for being the only member of the eight-man SAS mission Bravo Two Zero to escape, during the First Gulf War 1991. Ryan has subsequently written many books covering both fiction and non-fiction. His books include The One That Got Away, One Good Turn, The Kill Zone, Killing for the Company as well as Osama.
I found the book Osama in my local library. i was attracted by the title. It is Ryan’s 17th novel and is filled with action, thrills and inside knowledge. It starts at the time of Osama Bin Laden’s death. So, Osama Bin Laden is dead. The President of the United States knows it. The world knows it. SAS hero Joe Mansfield also knows it. He was there, in Pakistan, when it happened. He saw Seal Team 6 go in, and he saw them extract with their grisly cargo. He was in the right place at the right time: or maybe, the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, it seems, somebody wants Joe dead, and they are willing to do anything to make it happen. His world is violently dismantled. His family is targeted, his reputation destroyed. Then, as a mysterious and ruthless enemy plans a devastating terror attack on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Joe knows this: his only chance of survival is to find out what happened in Bin Laden’s compound the night the Americans went in. However, an unseen, menacing power has footprints it needs to cover. It will stop at nothing to prevent him uncovering the sinister truth.
Throughout Osama, Ryan gives a good account of the military detail. This draws on his own personal experience, and gives the story greater texture than the majority of books in the genre. Osama has a good plot. Much good thriller fiction is based on a conspiracy theory and the author appears to have taken that to heart.
The novel kicks off on the fateful night outside Islamabad. Joe Mansfield is part of a SAS team whose responsibilities are solely to hold the perimeter while DEVGRU swoops in and blows away their man. A helicopter crashes, as did happen in real life and Mansfield’s partner disobeys orders, break perimeter and see how the SEALS are getting on. The SAS see not one, but two, body bags being transferred and only just make it back to their positions before being detected. However, they mistakenly believe they are in the clear. The CIA officer overseeing the operation spots them with some nifty facial recognition software after reviewing the after action footage and initiates a series of events.
Firstly, Mansfield’s partner is killed when an IED blows him up on a routine mission. This causes Mansfield to have serious mental health issues. He leaves the SAS and is driven to drink. Later, he is nearly run over by a Range Rover and is then ambushed by mysterious men who frame him for the premeditated murder of his wife. Meanwhile, on a housing estate, a group of jihadists, led by a man who wishes to fill the power vacuum in Al Qaeda, is gearing up for a simple, yet devastating terrorist attack. These threads converge in a tangle of betrayal, insanity and soul crushing despair as Mansfield escapes and learns that the men who ruined him may be on the verge of killing thousands.
Although I really did not like any of the characters in this book, The interesting alterations to real life events are clever. Ryan makes a solid conspiracy out of the historical event.The research done by the author was a great highlight of this novel. The book gives us some insights on how modern British law enforcement works from the prisons to how Scotland Yard tracks suspects. The setting is also successful. From the prison Mansfield gets incarcerated in, the broken housing estates where the Jihadists congregate and the rusted, rain swept playground where events come to a climax, the author is able to create a depressing and soul crushing atmosphere, perhaps too well.
This is the first Chris Ryan novel that I have read, but I am sure it will not be the last. Osama is not for the faint of heart. However, if you enjoy thrillers with a real life background, this is a most interesting novel and I recommend it.