Review Blog

Jan 08 2020

Westwind by Ian Rankin

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Orion, 2019 (c1990). ISBN: 9781409196051. 320pp.
(Age: Senior/adult) Recommended. Westwind was originally published in 1990 and was forgotten by most. But Rankin did hear from readers on occasion, who liked Westwind and so made a decision to revise and reissue.
Westwind is a thriller set in the 1990s when satellite and computer technology are still a little mysterious to most. Martin Hepton works in a tracking facility, with its latest target Zephyr a British satellite. It has been successfully launched from the shuttle Argos, but Argos has come down with loss of all but one life, the only Brit in the crew.
This is a time when, as now the political situation is unsettled. The Americans want out of Europe, however there are many both in Britain, Europe and the US who think the move fool hardy.
Hepton and another of the trackers, Paul Vincent, think there is something odd when they loose contact for longer than is normal with Zephyr. Hepton's sense of unease grows when Vincent is suddenly taken ill and removed to a hospital.
Dreyfuss, the lone survivor from the shuttle finds himself in an American hospital isolated, drugged and fearful for his future. He hopes for some help from the British Embassy, but it seems a long time coming.
Add to the mix a rather beautiful assassin, MI5, MI6 and US intelligence and the odd body the action ramps up as does the intrigue about what is happening and who is behind it all.
Westwind in the end is a reasonably satisfying spy come tech thriller. Those geeks into the latest technology may find it a bit lame, but for a Luddite like me it was fine. This is not a Rebus novel, Edinburgh is not its setting, but I can see why there was a push to reissue. There are parallels to situations now in the UK and Europe so perhaps a timely reminder of what may happen when politics goes wobbly. Themes: Thriller, Crime, Spies.
Mark Knight

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