The Red Cobra by Rob Sinclair (Bloodhound Books)

I was recently asked to join the blog tour for Rob Sinclair’s new book, The Red Cobra. I jumped at the chance, being a massive fan of Sinclair’s Enemy Series and his most recent novel, Dark Fragments, all of which I have sang the praises of over the last two years. I was particularly intrigued to see how Sinclair would develop his brilliant character Carl Logan, in order for him to become James Ryker, in this new series of books.

Carl Logan is in hiding with his girlfriend from the Enemy Series, Angela, and they have established new identities, James and Lisa Ryker. His fragile tranquility is inevitably broken when he is found at his hideaway by his former boss from the Joint Intelligency Agency. Peter Winter arrives at their beach house in a sunny part of the world with news that an old adversary, the Red Cobra, has been found dead in her home in Marbella, Spain. Winter asks James to return to his past occupation to help him find who killed the fearless assassin. Against his better judgement, Ryker takes a trip to the Costa Del Sol to try and find out how and why the elusive Red Cobra was brutally murdered. Keeping his new identity, but having to establish his old role, Ryker does what he has been so well trained to do: get answers by any means necessary for the good of the J.I.A.

Sinclair has taken a really unusual tack in reinventing an established, frankly brilliant, character to add another dimension that we saw to a small extent in Carl Logan in the Enemy series, but that we see more of in James Ryker in this new series: a sense of vulnerability, self doubt and an inevitability that the new life he had tried to invent for himself and Lisa couldn’t last. His past was always going to catch up with him. Sinclair has done a fantastic job of combining the old character with the new to give Carl Logan a new lease of life as James Ryker and to further keep the reader intrigued in this great character. Ryker falls back into his old life but with a renewed sense of identity and perception, beautifully balanced by Sinclair. Ryker has Lisa, where Logan did not, and Lisa is both his strength and his weakness. Logan only had himself to think about, but Ryker cannot help but think about Lisa every step of the way and returning home to her. The inner struggle between his new and old life is a brilliant facet to the plot.

As with the Enemy series, Sinclair uses the landscape to his advantage. Amongst the beautiful backdrop of the picturesque towns and villages of the Costa Del Sol, the reader is treated to brutally explicit descriptions, as regular readers of Sinclair’s novels have come to expect. Not for the fainthearted, admittedly, but Sinclair can describe a bloodbath with alarmingly gory detail which adds to the intensity of the scenes in the novel and to the excitement of the narrative.

The Red Cobra character provides a great juxtaposition to Ryker in their similarities, which builds up the tension between the two characters perfectly. They are both good at what they do, with good instincts and a confident stature, but both have a sense of vulnerability in their solitude. Sinclair portrays this so well, providing other characters that show the best and worst in his signature characters, that it is no surprise that he achieves this once again in The Red Cobra.

Cleverly written, the seamless links that Sinclair has developed between Logan and Ryker in this first James Ryker novel creates a really interesting and engaging novel. Whilst the Enemy Series is undoubtedly woven into The Red Cobra, a clear definition is made that Ryker is not the same man he was and this provides many pitfalls and advantages for the reader to take forward into future novels. With a brilliant bombshell moment at the end of The Red Cobra, there surely can’t be a single reader who won’t be desperate to read the next book in the series. I’ll definitely be waiting with baited breath for the next book. I loved Carl Logan and I love James Ryker and Sinclair provides all Logan fans with a brilliant vehicle for the transition from one to the other.

Red Cobra final