We’re in Basra, Mesopotamia, in 1915, with the British against the German and Turkish forces in WWI.
Wilhelm Wassmuss, Lock’s German nemesis from the first book, is plotting to incriminate our hero in the crime of assassination. He is also financing a far-reaching network of spies…
Lock’s involvement with rich nurse Amy is thrust against the rocks, it seems, despite their earlier throes of passion. Lock is supported by his faithful comrade Siddhartha Singh (‘Sid’). Lock and his men are sent on a Commando mission to spike the enemy mines on the Tigris.
Throughout, the period details and the terrain come across as genuine. The map is useful and an improvement on the map in the first book. We continue to empathise with Lock and Sid.
Certainly, some of the storyline seems contrived, notably where coincidences are concerned, but it’s still good Boys’ Own adventure stuff.
Annoyingly, other characters are not developed much; for instance Sergeant Major Underhill and Petty Officer Betty Boxer, both of whom are interesting.
In conclusion, I suspect the book was probably rushed. The final confrontation is confusing, inadequately described. And many threads are left dangling, possibly intentionally with an eye on another follow-up.
Entertaining, but could have benefited from tighter editing.
These comments may prove useful to writers…
As before, the name Lock is used too often when ‘he’ would suffice.
When only two characters are in a scene, it is not necessary for them to constantly refer to each other by name/rank, and the worst offenders are Lock and Sid conversing. Too many instances to itemise, but, for example: ‘Don’t be daft, Sid… I’m fine, Sid… Nothing, Sid…True, Sid… Yes, Sid…’ (all on p278)
It’s grating to repeatedly encounter ‘was sat’ instead of the perfectly correct and simpler ‘sat’ in the narrative. Again, too many instances to itemise, here’s one, for example: ‘He was sat shoulder to shoulder…’ (p211)
‘Though still a sergeant major, Lock had gained a rare mumble of gratitude from Underhill when he presented him with his promotion to RSM...’ (p179) Of course this is wrong, implying Lock is the sergeant major! The editor should have deleted ‘Though still a sergeant major’.
Both Indian’s were shirtless… (p191) There shouldn’t be an apostrophe!
Over-use of the word ‘up’, often when it is not necessary. An example: ‘… peering hard up at the sky.’ (p280) We know the sky is up… A single page has too many ups and downs, for example. (p377)
Similar, here: ‘… the pinking sky above them…’ (p284)
And: ‘… shadow cast from the moonlight up above,’ (p314)
At least three instances of the misuse of the word ‘populous’ when it should have been ‘populace’ (I noted two: pp331, 348)
‘a sound lost in the aeroplane’s noisy engine’ (p376) This should be ‘a sound drowned by the aeroplane’s noisy engine’, perhaps.
‘Without his shako on, Lock could see that the generaloberst had a head of thick snow-white hair’ (p397) Of course, the shako belongs to the white-haired chap, not Lock!
This next instance is a common conundrum for writers. If you’re riding a horse, you are not galloping but the horse is, yet we tend to say ‘He galloped…’ So it is here: ‘Lock puttered along trying to estimate how far he needed to travel before he should go ashore.’ (p407) It’s the motor launch that putters, not Lock. We know Lock is in the launch, so why not attribute the puttering to the boat? ‘The motor launch puttered along while he tried to estimate…’