Alex Shaw’s dangerous protagonist of his new series – Sophie Racine – is a treat to read and is just as badass as the male protagonists of his other series. His latest thriller – Traitors – is filled with high octane cinematic action sequences, espionage, many plot twists, and a good amount of heart. The usual amount of blood and gore is present, but I was surprised to find a likable female action hero written by a male author which wasn’t sexualized to any of the stereotypes.
Sophie, a French assassin for the DGSE, is a complex character that even the male reader base of the genre can empathize with and cheer for as the story develops in its non-linear narrative, but the action is extremely satisfying just like reading a thriller with any badass, crazy, and brilliantly relentless action hero. The DGSE and the French perspective of the protagonists are rare in the genre, but it’s handled well in a believable yet classical way, with more focus on old-school espionage tradecraft.
The plot of Traitors has many moving parts, involving Sophie going into war-torn Ukraine under the cover of a Russian journalist to kill a French traitor who had struck a large blow for the DGSE, an SIS Increment operator in Ukraine who’s rescuing a British citizen held captive by Sophie’s target, multiple personal vendettas that span years(even decades), scheming spymasters with scores to settle, and a fight against overwhelming odds with no backup or support. This is peppered with good doses of dark comedy, wildly fun action-packed escapades, a constant stream of tension and plot twists, realistically seeming tradecraft and action, and high use of non-linear narratives to unravel the numerous connected pieces of the story that give it a personal touch. Too many guns, bombs, grenades, armored vehicles, drones, and more spice up the propulsive narrative, and it felt like watching an awesome movie.
Aiden Snow, the protagonist of another series written by Alex Shaw, has a major role in this book as the British SIS operator sent to rescue the British Muslim student(with secret political connections) help captive by Sophie’s target. Though Snow’s a fun, dangerous, wacky, and smart character who vaguely forms a bond with Sophie as they work together in their connected objectives, he does and also does not steal the show as his major ‘subplot’ never connects to Sophie’s main plot and character arc. I liked that the two operators who meet accidentally in a tough fix are mature enough to avoid territorial/political/tactical disputes over their different countries/agencies/objectives and work together in their own way without hindering each other which is the opposite of what is normally done in such stories.
An interesting side character in the form of a British expat turned pro-Russia English language TV journalist(entertainer/puppet) was an annoying comedic relief at best and a nuisance at worst throughout the story who meets a fitting end in the multi-layered climax. This is a thriller with too many shadowy players involved and though the villain gets terminated, his twisted schemes lay active and give many major characters a tragic end which establishes an overarching story arc for many sequels to come in the series. Traitors can be read as a standalone, but I felt it ended in a very anticlimactic manner with multiple climaxes for the many plot threads that crash disastrously in a shockingly smart and unique narrative that will surprise both the cerebral spy thriller and the adventurous action thriller fanbases.
Alex Shaw’s Traitors is a fresh tale in the genre and is sure to shock and amaze hardcore action thriller and espionage fiction readers who are tired of formulaic and overdone stories. Plus, Ukraine, the main setting of this book, is vividly shown through Shaw’s writing, which has an on-the-ground level of expertise and lucid detail enough to make the location a character/subject of the book. I’m looking forward to the sequel whenever it releases as Sophie Racine is a major character to watch out for in this gritty genre.
Get it here –