This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Cut Out is the best book Jack Heath has written so far. It is a fast-paced, relentless action adventure full of spies, secrets and double-crosses. Fero is a great protagonist. He is wide-eyed, but remarkably adaptable and capable. Quick-witted but green, he is the latest recruit to the Kamauan secret service, known as The Librarians (because they know where to find information about everyone).
Besmari, the country across the border known as the Dead Zone, has been in conflict with Kasmau for as long as anyone can remember. Besmari terrorists have managed to get their hands on a quantity of a deadly virus in an abandoned hospital and they are threatening to wipe out hundreds of thousands of Kamau citizens by blowing it up. In exchange for not doing this they want a Besmari prisoner to be released – but the prisoner is dead. They must get inside and render the bombs and their payload harmelss. Fero is recruited by the Librarians because he is a dead ringer for one of their top agents, Troy Maschenov. His mission? Get into Besmari territory, convince their agents (known as Bankers and Tellers) that he is Troy, and then deliberately expose an undercover Kasmauan agent, Cormanenko, who has gone underground. Cormanenko is the only agent who came out of the hospital alive after a poison gas attack and the Librarians need her kniowledge to get inside and diffuse the bombs.
With nineteen hours of training and a few nifty gadgets, Fero breaks through the border and finds himself in the middle of a political and moral firestorm. Turns out Cormanenko did NOT want to be found, but she does not want innocent Kamauans to die, so she agrees to escape with Fero. There are breath-taking chase scenes, heart-stopping escapes, more than one double cross, and some fantastic spy toys employed throughout. As their mission progresses and changes on the fly, Fero discovers time and again that all it not as it seems, and that he can really trust no-one but himself.
For fear of giving spoilers I won’t go further with plot details, but I can say that there is a sequel, The Fail Safe, planned for 2016.
Jack Heath has really nailed the “feel” of this book. I was “with” Fero all the way and actually gasped out loud a couple of times at various plot points (love it when that happens). This is the kind of story that would translate really well to a short TV series (hello, ABC 3) of three or four episodes. And, I must say, as a librarian, I loved the idea of the Kamau secret service not only using the terms, Librarian and Cataloguer, but also their headquarters being housed underneath an actual library. Unfortunately for me, it was an idea I had harboured myself for a novel – looks like Jack beat me to it!
I recommend this book for anyone 12 and over, and I can’t wait for the next instalment. Go, Jack, go!