The Break Line introduces to the world Max McLean, he works for an organization called “the Unknown,” but because any intelligence organization cannot function without a three-letter acronym, much like the alphabet soup that is the American federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies. “The-Unknown” became the UKN. Their job is to do the jobs no one else could be seen doing, because officially, they do not exist. Max is known as the man that gets the job done!
The Break Line has a little bit of a slow start, taking it’s time to introduce characters and avoiding any conflict. Many hints are made into the history of the protagonist, and you’re left feeling anxious to see just what he is capable of. However, once engagement into combat is made in the first dispute, it does not stop. The action continues and more than makes up for the lack of excitement early in the book. The location is West Africa. There, Max is forced to deal with a CIA operative that is posing as a CDC (Center for Disease Control) employee. A number of Russian Spetsnaz soldiers, (Russian Special Forces). Local rebels, road blocks, machine gun fire from a PK Machine gun (Russian 7.62 mm caliber machine gun), grenades, machetes, and of course the main threat, which I will not spoil here, but let me tell you, this threat is deadly. He deals with each one of those obstacles in a number of ways, which all account for his training, experience, and establish just how dangerous he is. The Break Line has many surprises and twists I didn’t see coming, but one that totally caught me by surprise, I had to do a double take and read it again.
The main supporting character is Robert, a local whom is hired by the British government as a driver for Max, a translator and a beer drinking “brother” (self-description) who is scared shitless but manages to come through when he is needed most. He and his wife, Juliet get dragged into the drama that ensues and barely make it out in one piece. Only by the grace of Max’s quick thinking and skill do they make it out alive. Max’s personal thoughts on one situation when he was forced to not only kill the bad guys but worry about Robert and Juliet was that they slowed him down. If he were on his own, “none of the shooters chasing them would have left alive.”
Max’s personality and views are established early on. The second to last sentence in the Prologue establishes just who we’re dealing with here. A killer. However, we soon learn that he doesn’t follow blind orders. He questions them and reacts appropriately if he doesn’t agree. Basically, we learn that Max has a conscious. He also has a set of skills acquired over a 23-year career as an assassin that are deadly and is sure to climb the ranks among the best of them, including Alex Hawke, Dewey Andreas, or Jack Reacher. I mentioned once the action starts, it does not let up for second. That action comes from Max in the form of: hand to hand combat, fighting with a blade, shooting, long distance as a sniper and close quarter battle with a pistol, (at which he is very precise). Parachuting, driving skills, including giving someone proper directions on driving technique during a chase and shootout. He uses his lip-reading skills, he can hold his breath for a long time. At one point, he infiltrates the enemy camp and gets medical aid from a nurse. Max is a formidable opponent and a new action hero in the thriller genre that I’m hoping will become an annual read. With his story established, I’m hoping the next book picks up where this one left off, and we see the action from Max early in the book.
James Brabazon brings a unique perspective to the thriller genre, as a combat journalist he got to see up close and personal how war is waged, from both sides of the conflict. On some instances, being face to face with the enemy. His biography below reads much like a protagonist in a thriller. I very much enjoyed The Break Line and look forward to more from James in the future.
Author: James Brabazon
Pages: 354 Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Lima Charlie Review Rating: 8/10
Follow James on Twitter: @James_Brabazon
About James Brabazon
James Brabazon is an author, journalist and documentary filmmaker. Based in the UK, he has travelled to over 70 countries – investigating, filming and directing in the world’s most hostile environments. He is the author of the international bestseller My Friend the Mercenary, a memoir recounting his experiences of the Liberian civil war and the Equatorial Guinea coup plot, published by Canongate. His debut novel, the thriller The Break Line is be published by Michael Joseph (PRH UK 2018) and Berkley (PRH US 2019). He recently commissioned the 35th series of Channel 4’s flagship current affairs series Unreported World (2018). James oversees security protocols for the Channel’s high risk deployments.
James spent a year as the commissioning editor for the Foreign Film Fund, Channel 4 News (2015-2016). In November 2015 he was in the Foreign Press Association’s News Story of the Year award-winning team for Channel 4’s ground-breaking investigation Tracking Down Macedonia’s Migrant Kidnap Gang. He commissioned Syrian camerawoman Waad Al-Kateab’s British television debut series Inside Aleppo which won multiple honours, including 4 Royal Television society awards.
He recently produced and directed The Traffickers: Guns (Lightbox for Fusion, 2016) – an hour-long documentary investigating the illegal trade in weapons between the USA Central America.
James first gained international profile as the only journalist to film the Liberian LURD rebel group fighting to overthrow President Charles Taylor. He spent over six months travelling with the rebels in Liberia on the multiple award-winning documentary projects Liberia: A Journey Without Maps (2002: BBC2, SABC, CNN) and Liberia: An Uncivil War (2003: Discovery, BBC4).
James read history at the University of Cambridge (1991–94) and subsequently developed his career in photojournalism as a contributing reportage photographer for Katz Pictures in London and Gamma Press Images in Paris. From 1999 to 2002 he worked as a television news producer with Nairobi-based television agency Camerapix in Eritrea, Kenya and Zimbabwe, producing long and short form packages (BBC, SKY, TVNZ, ABC, CNN, SABC).
Since 2002 he has worked on independent commissions with Discovery (The World’s Most Dangerous Places, Gabriel Films 2002–04); BBC2, for whom he made the BAFTA- and Grierson-nominated four-part current affairs series The Violent Coast in West Africa (2003–04); Channel 4, where he made twenty-two films in the critically acclaimed Unreported World series (2004–15) and was appointed the strand’s Deputy Series Editor (2008–09); and Dispatches (2005–12), where he has made five films.
At Unreported World, James has made films in locations including Somalia (featuring an exclusive interview with a senior al-Qaeda commander); India (covering the fight between Maoist guerrillas, indigenous people and mining companies over land rights); Ivory Coast (documenting the violent struggle to control the international cocoa harvest); Colombia (exploring the mechanics of the trade in cocaine to the USA); Cameroon (examining the connections between the illegal trade in bushmeat and zoonotic viruses); Papua New Guinea (investigating violence fuelled by the narcotics trade with Australia); and Syria, filming a volunteer doctor in the frontline town of Salma, in Latakia; and the last days of the siege of Kobani for the RTS Award-nominated film The City that Beat ISIS (2015).
For Channel 4’s Dispatches series, James has filmed and directed unique material with US troops in Baghdad (Iraq: The Reckoning, Juniper 2005) for which he gained a second BAFTA nomination; reported the inside story of the planned coup in Equatorial Guinea (My Friend the Mercenary, Hardcash 2005); investigated social and political turmoil in Paris and Birmingham during the Paris riots (Paris in Flames, Mentorn 2005); told the inside story of BP’s controversial operations in Alaska and Azerbaijan and political connections in Britain (In Deep Water, Fresh One 2010–11); investigated the finances of former Prime Minister Tony Blair in Britain, Kuwait and Palestine (The Wonderful World of Tony Blair, Blast Films 2011); and exposed the relationship between British aid money and human rights abuses in Rwanda (Where Has Your Aid Money Gone? October Films 2012).
James produced the Academy Award shortlisted and double EMMY-nominated feature documentary Which Way Is The Frontline From Here? (Goldcrest Films for HBO, 2013), which tells the life story of his friend and colleague the photographer Tim Hetherington, who was killed while working in Libya in April 2011.
James was awarded the IDA Courage Under Fire Award 2004 and the Rory Peck Trust Sony International Impact Award 2003. His work in Liberia won many international accolades including the Rory Peck Trust Freelancer’s Choice Award 2003; the Special Jury Award IDFA 2004 and two EMMY nominations. James’s films have provoked major international political investigations in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Jamaica.
James lectures on the ethics and practicalities of journalism in hostile environments at universities across Britain. His company, Brabazon Media, has an ongoing contract to provide Camera, Edit and Risk Assessment and Security Protocol Awareness Training for Channel 4’s Dispatches Investigative Journalism Trainee Scheme.