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Wednesday 14 February 2024

EXOCET - Book review


Jack Higgins’s 1983 thriller Exocet was fresh off the press roughly a year after the Falklands War and presciently deals with Argentina’s search for additional Exocet missiles, as at the outset of hostilities Argentina only possessed very few.

Brigadier Charles Ferguson is head of an adjunct to the British Secret Intelligence Service, Group Four, directly responsible to the PM. Ferguson’s top man is Major Tony Villiers in the Grenadier Guards, attached to the SAS.

Villiers is divorced; his wife was Gabrielle Legrand. They used to work together undercover. She is tasked by Ferguson with getting to know Colonel Raul Carlos Montera, Special Air Attaché at the Argentinian Embassy in London. She must find out what the Argentine intentions were regarding the Falkland Islands.

Galtieri and Dozo figure in the story, as you’d expect.

Businessman Felix Donner is successful – and an illegal arms dealer. He has links with Russia. And he is hired by the Argentinians to obtain a ship-load of Exocets, weapons that could win the war. As the weapons are manufactured in France, that seems a likely place to make a deal...

Villiers is pulled out of the Falklands – he’s part of a four-man reconnaissance team and sent to France to thwart Donner.

The story is non-stop, switching scenes and countries at a fair lick, and never lets up, in the usual Higgins manner. The relationship between the pilot Raul and Gabrielle is handled well and creates tension. Of course history tells us that the additional Exocets were never obtained.

The manipulative General Ferguson appears in other books by Higgins. Interestingly, in Port Stanley, FI, there’s a Villiers Street. Having recently read The Falklands War by the Sunday Times Insight Team (1982), it is quite evident that Higgins read this account for background verisimilitude, and uses the facts convincingly.

Editorial note:

Higgins mentions a Smith and Wesson Magnum revolver with a Carswell silencer (p3). I could be wrong, but I thought it was very rare for a revolver to have a silencer fitted. A Magnum pistol, fine.

His character Dillon’s favourite handgun is a Walther PPK with Carswell silencer...

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