Boys who hoped that Boy Soldier would offer War Action from the writer of Bravo Two Zero will need to think again. And it is boys we are talking about here. On the web, Robert Rigby reveals that the book emerged from a project involving teenage boys not much interested in books – it’s worth tracking down his piece. Danny’s grandfather is an ex SAS soldier who has apparently defected to the rebels in Colombia and resurfaced with a new identity, unknown to his political masters, running a burger bar on the road from London to Southend. Danny finds his way into the army mysteriously blocked, despite his good work on a selection course. All he can tell is that it’s something to do with his disgraced grandfather. This is where credibility gets stretched a bit; MI6 does not trust its own investigators to find Grandfather Fergus, but cunningly think that by blocking Danny’s application they will prompt the lad to go searching for his grandfather; then, all they need to do is track Danny tracking Fergus.
That’s pretty much how things turn out. Danny recruits his friend, future computer scientist extraordinaire Elena, and off he goes, determined to turn Grandad in. MI6 agents duly trail him, prompted by suave and treacherous George Fincham at HQ along with Marcie Deveraux, glamorous as a supermodel (‘She had it all. Style, Class. Va va voom.’) Surprisingly, the plot is not particularly fast moving. In part, this is because McNab and Rigby don’t spare the detail and the jargon (glossary provided) when it comes to such insider knowledge as four-handed tracking of an individual (‘That’s Fran foxtrot… Mick’s going for the trigger’ etc.), methods of throwing such trackers off the scent or the defensive systems of safe houses. This is mostly pretty harsh stuff, though there is some comic relief provided by Eddie, a sleazy investigative journalist down on his luck; his comic contribution comes to an abrupt end when ‘Mick clinically raised his pistol and double tapped the reporter on the head. Eddie was dead before he hit the concrete.’
The plot ends less conclusively. Fincham’s duplicity has still not been exposed and high-cheekboned Marcie is still sliding confidential sheets of paper across desks at Vauxhall Cross, MI6 Headquarters. Grandfather and grandson, meanwhile, are dishing up burgers and bacon by a roadside somewhere in Spain. Sounds like a sequel is on the way.