Satori by Don Winslow

Here I continue my new interest in all things Don Winslow. I was not disappointed by Satori. The main character is an interesting blend of contradictions. His name is Nicholas Hel, although he is western by appearance, he was raised in Japan and considers himself Asian by character and temperament.

He has all the usual spy skills – martial arts training and the ability to kill silently with his bare hands, speaks multiple languages and has the James Bond effect on women. But the most interesting thing he really has going for himself is that he is a master strategist who has gained this ability by playing the game of Go.

He is tasked with killing a high level Soviet in China and although his minders think they are sending him on a suicide mission, his ability to look ahead and strategize, means that he has a better than average chance of surviving his mission.

He spends time perfecting his cover as a French arms dealer and proceeds to travel through China, Cambodia and Vietnam as he moves across the live Go board and pits himself against players who are equally canny at strategizing themselves.

Winslow does a great job of researching his subjects and this means that the writing is highly detailed and believable. I am a huge James Bond fan, have read all of Ian Fleming’s books and several of the authors who picked up the Bond franchise.

I have also read the Bourne books and Satori stacks up well against both franchises. In fact, I will happily seek out more books with Nicholas Hel. I will happily read the rest of what Don Winslow has written.

For those interested, this novel is based on Trevanian’s Shibumi. Trevanian was also responsible for The Eiger Sanction, another favorite of mine. So in some sense, you get a two-fer – two good authors, one great character! Check them both out. 5 stars!

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