Reviews of BOLT ACTION
Recent reviews of BOLT ACTION.
This is one of the best and most thrilling first books from a promising new author, that I've read in some time. Basically, it is a story of a Pakistan International Airways, Boeing 777 Jet airliner flying across the Atlantic from Manchester Airport, England to JFK, New York. An Al-Qaeda inspired steward, tricks his way into the pilots' cockpit laden with poisoned drinks for the aircrew who are thus killed and then the assailant takes a drug himself and slumps to the floor. Since 9/11, the door between the pilots and the passengers on an airliner must be locked and is impossible to break down. As the aircraft is on autopilot for the most of its journey it won't be for some time that the rest of the crew and the passengers will be alerted to their ultimate fate. Recorded messages making various Al-Qaeda demands are sent to the authorities in New York and London. The US President authorises the despatch of two US Air Force missile laden Super Hornet Jet Fighters, to escort the plane. They have the ultimate possibility of shooting it down if necessary. Some of the recorded messages sent by the Muslim militants have been received by TV stations and upon re-broadcast have caused uproar and chaos, particularly in the Middle East. A typical example is as follows:
"..Pakistan International Airways Boeing 777 Jet hijacked and 300 Muslim innocent passengers to be slaughtered by Infidel War-planes. 90 females. 40 children."
Angry relatives of the passengers are causing lots of anti-US demonstrations, in many cities across the globe, to try to stop the airliner from being shot down. Very worrying for the US President and other political leaders. He tries to get the Canadians to support him but without success. Passengers on the hijacked airliner have heard via mobile phones of the unfolding tragedy and this causes absolute anxiety and anger in the economy passenger cabin.
The rest of the book deals with explaining the circumstances of why two ex-parachute regiment soldiers and an ex-officer are the only passengers travelling in first class that day and how their help will be needed if the possible crash is to be averted. It also details how the CIA learnt of the plot days before it occurred but had great difficulty in alerting the appropriate authorities. It is very tightly plotted and enormously exciting, a real page turner which caused me one sleepless night before I was able reach the dramatic conclusion. The tension is relieved by a lot of humour and it was one of those books which one did not want to finish. I hope we are given the opportunity of reading further books from this outstanding new mystery author, and soon.
Terry Halligan, England, September 2010
Darkly entertaining thriller, 22 September 2010
Do not allow yourself to be fooled into thinking this is your usual ‘guns blazing’ thriller, the bright cover and back cover quotes give a false impression of what is an impressive debut.
A look at the author’s profile will tell you to expect something unusual in his first book and that starts with the narrative style. Told almost as if spying on the events by a mildly amused narrator…”The chocolate Hob Nob biscuit is halfway to the controller’s open mouth. Has been for almost thirty seconds now.”
The story itself is an action one, told with bleakly dark humour. Ex British soldiers (lead by a female!) plan a massive sting to get increased funding for better conditions for UK troops and get themselves trapped on an aeroplane that is either going to be shot down or crash into New York.
Where this really works is that the author also delivers some delicious characters, CIA Chief Lamayette (I could so see Joe Don Baker playing the role), MI5 battle axe Davane (I could see Brenda Fricker doing that one) and even the laid back Pakistani pilot, Harry Salahuddin, (Alexander Siddig?) all lift straight off the page. And why do I mention who should play them in a film, well it’s because you very much build up a visual picture of the characters.
So once you tune into the narrative style and understand that this is more “Three Kings” then “Rambo” you will find this tremendous fun.
I was lucky enough to be given a review copy and I am very glad because this was refreshingly different in an environment full of Andy McNab clones. Give this a try, it’s worth it. I look forward to investing in the author's next one.
British Army Military Community
The action is good, the pace gritty, the plot complex, the research thorough. A great piece of fiction that is clearly built around some realistic possibilities, touching on modern concerns, consciences and conflicts.
A talented team is recruited, made up exclusively of ex-paratroopers, by a woman of exceptional abilities, herself having served in an elite army unit. They proceed to wreak havoc on the Establishment as a payback for the breaking of the military covenant, havoc that makes them fabulously wealthy and on the run, managing to keep one step ahead of some extremely irate government agencies. Drawn into a tense situation with global repercussions, they can only assist as they are honour bound to do, however they must remain mindful of their fragile position in the eyes of the law.
Anyone with military experience will identify with the characters in this book, whether it’s the gruff Para with the heart of gold and robust sense of humour or the pilloried high command without a clear grasp of the on-the-ground requirements of modern warfare. Set in a world where duty is no longer recognized with reward yet demanded in ever increasing amounts, Bolt Action provides the potential to meet such challenges. The scenarios are plausible, the characters credible.
The book has some strong reviews in the public domain and some of them come from military people. This is an excellent book for a holiday or even swapping with the others on tour.
There is plenty to talk about within as to whether it could be possible, who would be the players and whether there really is someone with the capabilities and reputation to lead such a team. Could the team really achieve such spectacular successes? The trouble is, Charters has researched and written it in such a way that you might believe it.
We all have heard of valuable data going missing – how much that is lost is not announced? We all have heard of honeytraps yet never believe anyone could fall for them…
It’s a great first novel but it’s not going to knock your socks off with a twisting and turning storyline. The conclusion is easy to predict, the ability to outwit those with greater resources just about plausible. What does make this book readable, however, is the way it is built around the language, characteristics and methodologies of the armed forces so will no doubt appeal to the Arrsers. Could it be based around real people? Is this the Feather Men Part II? I guess time might tell but there will no doubt be some chat in the meantime.
3.5 Stars, Udipur
Chris High, independent reviewer
Like the prose in this debut novel, there`s little need for this review to beat about the bush: Charlie Charters` BOLT ACTION is a terrific, intricately plotted and devastatingly realistic thriller that is bound to have any reader absorbed from first to last.
Since 9/11, the door between the pilots and the passengers on an airliner must be locked and impossible to break down. But what if the pilots are dead?
Tristie Merritt leads a renegade band of ex-soldiers. Their daring scam will take millions from a furious British government and give it to veterans’ charities - if MI5 don`t catch up with them first. Then, when faced with the ultimate terrorist outrage at 36,000 feet, MI5 and the CIA find that Merritt is their one hope of preventing global disaster.
The main attributes that set this novel apart are, well, everything. The characters are not only well rounded, each protagonist could easily be given a novel of their own in future. The scenario is not entirely credible but is written almost in the style of a war game, without the Tom Clancy `I know more than you` confusion. The settings are so real they are tangible and the pace is that of, well, a speeding 777 on its way to blow up a major city without a pilot at the helm.
Indeed if there is one fault, it is in the dialogue which, on a few rare occasions, comes across as little too casual and Roger Moore as James Bond. That aside, however, this is a fantastic introduction from a British author who should soon be a household name. review by Irfan Hussain

Fiction requires a willing suspension of disbelief for it to work: the reader has to accept the world created by the author. Some writers create a landscape and characters that are utterly believable, while others conjure up a wholly unlikely scenario. While Charlie Charters’ BOLT ACTION falls into the latter category, it is so thoroughly researched that the reader is carried along at breakneck speed.
Set largely in Pakistan from where a major threat to global peace emerges (surprise, surprise), the book is a high-octane page-turner. Among the more surreal passages, there is a portrait of a retired Pakistani general driving golf balls in his car’s headlights at four in the morning at the Karachi Golf Club, while wearing a ‘shocking pink cardigan’. He is kidnapped by CIA operatives and driven to Karachi’s French Beach from where he is whisked off to a secret American prison by speed boat. This abduction triggers a devilish plot put into motion by the general’s sons.
In most political thrillers of this nature, the characters are mostly two-dimensional as authors sacrifice character development at the altar of a fast-paced plot. But in Tristie Merritt, Charters has created a Modesty Blaze for our times: tough, resourceful and utterly lethal, this no-nonsense ex-British Army captain is pitted against the British administration in a quixotic fight on behalf of her fellow soldiers. By chance, she is on board the hijacked aircraft as it heads towards New York.
Another memorable character is the CIA station chief in Islamabad, Bill Lamayette. Larger than life (literally and metaphorically), he blows up a dead 450-pound gorilla in his car in Peshawar to simulate his own death so he can do some snooping without official surveillance.
While his antics are scarcely believable, they are great fun nevertheless. For Pakistani readers the thought of a 300-pound plus American rampaging around in Swat might seem crazy, but given Lamayette’s bullish frame (and frame of mind), the stunt fits quite well within the structure of the plot.
The author’s great strength lies in providing readers with an incredibly detailed inside view of odd information. We learn things ranging from the technical intricacies of the security door leading to the cockpit of a Boeing 777, to MI5’s protocols governing the theft of a government laptop containing top-secret information about the American-made Trident missiles.
Charters has spent some time in Pakistan and he uses this first-hand knowledge to paint a fairly credible picture of a country at war with itself. But in his desire to work in an exotic locale like Swat into the story, he stretches the plot a bit thin. Fortunately, the reader is mostly too busy turning pages to notice such glitches.
A slightly more serious lapse is the notion that a retired senior general, repository of many embarrassing secrets, could be abducted by the CIA with a green light from the Pakistani leadership. Given the fact that our army protects its own very zealously, such a scenario is incredible, to say the least.
As Pakistan now figures in so many terrorist threats and attacks, it is small wonder that it now features in much contemporary fiction as a hotbed of extremism. While it is usually difficult to work in the history of jihad into the plot for fear of boring readers, Charters has a stab at it.
He describes the massacre of 400 Pakhtoons at the Qissa Khawani Bazar by the British in 1930 as the prelude to Operation Macchar, the plot to attack the United States. I will not discuss the details of the operation for fear of giving away the exciting climax.
The second half of the book is largely set in the hijacked PIA Boeing 777 as the plane flies towards New York while the heroine tries to regain control with the help of the airline’s captain Salahuddin, a sympathetic if somewhat ineffectual character. Actually, PIA emerges rather well in this story, with the author according high praise for its professionalism. Alas, this is a work of fiction.
One weakly drawn character is the American president, Charles Hannah. His peculiarity is that he picks his nose when under pressure. In this camera-conscious world, to imagine somebody being elected with such an unpleasant mannerism is stretching credibility to breaking point.
The author has used robust prose and he tells his story directly, without unnecessary flourishes. BOLT ACTION is his first book, and I suspect it won’t be his last. He has clearly enjoyed writing this story and so we will surely be hearing from him again. Having written a book with the punch of the old Lee-Enfield bolt action .303 rifle that was so widely used in the last century, I look forward to his next Tristie Merritt thriller.
Friday, 24 September 2010