With his first novel, Exeter, Ken Arthur brings us an action story with pacing similar to a Hollywood popcorn flick. The story moves along quickly, and keeps the reader engaged and wanting to find out what happens next. The concept is original, and the author unfolds the mystery gradually with a writing style that has a sense of urgency, breaking the tension with witty dialogue.
Reading Exeter is a unique experience, as the book was written prior to the events of September 11, 2001 but was not published until later. The differences between the way that the government, particularly departments of it that deal with intelligence and counter-terrorism, operate now when compared to how they operated then offers a stark contrast. The comparison between technology that was so complex that it bordered on science fiction at the time and is now almost common-place is also interesting, and it was refreshing to read an adventure and technological thriller based and written in the era before everyone had a smartphone at the tips of their fingers.
The only aspect of this book that makes it less than perfect is that it contains some grammar or punctuation errors. Although, these are not often or serious enough to be more than mildly distracting, and the story is engaging enough that it is worth reading past the errors to enjoy the adventure.
This book is the first in a series, but it is a self-contained story that can be read by itself. No other titles in the story have been published yet, but I look forward to seeing more from the characters and the society of Exeter when they are.
Profanity/Language: 5 religious exclamations; 45 mild obscenities; 16 derogatory names; 1 scatological word; 5 anatomical terms. (Note: 13 uses of various British obscenities are not tallied.)
Violence/Gore: Character punches another in good-natured manner; 9 verbal threats to kill someone; 2 threats to kill characters while pointing guns at them; character hits another and threatens to kill them (2); character injured in a climbing accident; character hit in the head/knocked out; short scene (2 pages) in which characters are knocked out and shot; character is killed by a sledgehammer (2 instances); character is hit with a pipe; brief scene (1 page) in which characters are shot and tortured; character is killed in a martial arts fight (2 instances); mugging with minor injuries; young characters in a fight involving broken nose and accompanying blood; brief (half-page) martial arts fight with no major injury; brief scene (2 pages) of martial arts fight resulting in broken bones and another (2 pages) resulting in broken bones and deaths; a vehicle is crushed in a crash; a home is ransacked; characters are shot to death (4 instances); military fight with minimal blood detailed (2 pages); equipment is sabotaged with deadly result; a character has suicidal intent; two characters are murdered (with few details); character is killed with a knife (not graphic); rape is mentioned in a report; the events of September 11, 2001 are mentioned in the Foreword.
In addition to the above instances, there are reports of: a knock-out during sparring match; character killed by an animal; body discovered; two deaths with no details; an assassination; character murdered by gunshot; several executions.
Sex/Nudity: Characters flirt verbally a few times; a character juggles relationships with multiple boyfriends; characters kiss on the cheek a few times; characters kiss goodnight; character daydreams romantically about another; characters hold hands a few times; characters hug a couple of times; non-sexual reference to “sagging breasts”; male charactres joke about a woman’s “sexy voice”; it is implied that a male character had sex with two women (not at the same time); characters kiss and caress briefly, and it is implied that sex follows; report of an affair; rape is mentioned in a report; character unbuttons another’s shirt, and sex is implied to follow; characters are in bed, with implication that sex has already occurred; mention that a character has had sex with another and that they will again; mention that a good-looking female character knows how to get attention from the opposite sex; joke about someone falling asleep too quickly for romance; strip joint (mention); “all-over tanning” at a beach (mention); male characters joke about a female character’s physical attributes; a character suggests an overnight date to another; a character looks forward to seeing his mistress and thinks about her beauty (not explicit); joke about men thinking with a part of anatomy other than their brain.
Mature Subject Matter:
Terrorism, nuclear war, government corruption, forgery, computer hacking, death of a friend.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adults drink beer, wine, and liquor; report of an athlete banned for drug use; the following are mentioned only: a pub crawl, narcotics, tobacco/smoking.