The Primary Objective by Martin Venning

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The Primary Objective by Martin Venning

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: An interesting plot device has a bunch of mercenaries trying to prevent a war by finding out exactly what is going on in a secret establishment near the Iran / Azerbaijan border. Unfortunately, the book doesn't live up to the plot's potential.
Buy? No Borrow? No
Pages: 496 Date: January 2021
Publisher: Matador
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1800461109

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Sometimes a book starts off slowly but eventually draws you into caring about the characters or simply wanting to know what happens next. Sometimes it doesn't. The basic premise is a good one – a clandestine organisation, operating as a charity, but funded by various governments around the world and partially (maybe, I'm not sure) under the auspices of the UN, with the primary objective of keeping the peace, by any means possible. Diplomacy is always the first option and sometimes one that needs to be carried out by third parties, but for situations when that looks unlikely to yield results Peace International maintains a call-on list of field operatives, ex-military, medics, scientists or anyone else with a taste for adventure and willing to risk their lives for the sake of it.

We meet up with just such a random bunch brought together to figure out exactly what is going on in a secret establishment close to the Iran / Azerbaijan border. There is a decent adventure story lurking in getting the crew into and (maybe) back out of the establishment. There is a potential political thriller lurking in the how's and why's and who's paying for it of said establishment. There are a good number of other plot-lines in how & why each of heroes – and indeed each of the villains (if you manage to choose a side; I struggled) – come to be where they are, doing what they're about to do. Unfortunately, all of this potential wasted in a lacklustre telling.

Sadly, The Primary Objective is one of those books that wears its research very heavily. It feels as though every last 'fact' and 'idea' has been crammed in, making chunks of it read like a cross between a high-school essay and an internet tour guide. Characters are forced into long explanations about things that everyone around them either undoubtedly already knows, or really – given the nature of what's going on – really doesn't need to.

The characters themselves elicited no empathy from me, partly because I couldn't figure out whose side I was meant to be on. We get everyone's back-story, which while in all cases entirely plausible does little to either endear them to us or the do the reverse. Plus, there is a difference between plausible and believable. None of these people speak the way those kinds of people would speak – or indeed, not speak. Simply put, I didn't believe in them so I didn't really care who won, or whether they survived or not.

That didn't really much matter because another problem is a complete lack of tension. I once read somewhere that active military service is a great deal of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror – this book suggests that might be the case. It suggests that a great deal of international relations, even the clandestine kind, is really a great number of mind-numbing business meetings followed by moments of derring-do by the good guys and incompetence on the other side. Part of me thinks that's probably not far from the truth, but it doesn't make for an entertaining read.

For this story to grip, it really needs to be a lot tighter, and either focus on one chosen viewpoint or to start further back and properly (with action & tension) follow the individual backstories as separate plots only bringing them to the focal point towards the end of the book. As it stands, I'm afraid it doesn't really work.

For other tales in the same part of the world we can recommend The Golden Cage: Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny by Shirin Ebadi and for political thrillers who else but the master of the craft John Le Carré.

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Buy The Primary Objective by Martin Venning at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Primary Objective by Martin Venning at


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Gerald Atkins said:

I felt the Primary Objective was a great plot with a difference.I could not put it down !While throughly researched in its detail it remain very gripping. If at times one feels individual characters could be developed this has to be a gift for an action packed thriller ! Film makers watch this space. This author is one to watch a writer of great promise and excitement .