Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Review: Two Days in Tehran

I'm always interested in reading books about Iran. I would like to know what others write about my country and I get disappointed most of the time because they are not showing the true Iran… they just write some stereotype stories to have their books published.

This book was different. The story just took place in Iran and had some Iranian characters but I was very happy to find out it's not like the other books. Airyaa

I am not a user of superlatives, so I shan't be exactly mirroring the reviews of other readers of this new Michael J Hunt novel. However, I can echo one comment: when told that a story is "based on a real life journey" I too wonder what aspects of the novel are thus based.

It doesn't matter, however, as I feel that in this novel Michael Hunt has reached a new level of conviction. His first person narrative reads just as you would expect from a genuine journal - it has an almost homely touch, no obtrusive "literary" tricks and devices. Incidentally, however, I did relish his occasional italicised "Thinks-bubble" comments, one-sentence soliloquies, reminding you that behind the narrative there is a narrator.

One element that readers enjoy in any kind of fiction is the provision, in the earlier stages of the narrative, of hints about significant detail - details that will be crucial later on. This is a well-known feature of the best detective stories, but its importance generally is evidenced by one's irritation when the final "solution" to a plot involves a deus ex machina - the introduction of characters of whose existence one has had no hint preciously. In Two Days in Tehran, Michael Hunt actually draws attention to details that will, or may, have significance later on. Unfortunately my memory is so poor that I forgot the detail and so could not mentally say "Ah, so that's what ....."! On the other hand Hunt makes skilful use of the author's licence to spring surprises - on characters in the story as well as on the reader.

Bucking current trends, the novel earn a very favourable rating from me on sex and violence. The inevitable violence is reported but not dwelt lovingly on, and the reader might be (dare I say?) as disappointed as one of the characters in the studied avoidance of physical intimacy!

The central figure is presented as modest about his own role, correctly, one feels. So the triumph of Good over Evil is a shared achievement, multi-national at that. This is just one of the pleasantly distinctive features of a very readable, and increasingly gripping, tale. DJ Gosden

Normally a slow reader I read this book in 4 days. It keeps you interested and keen to turn the next page. Michael obviously knows the area and history. A perfect piece of fiction which also gives an insight in to the history of Iran. V J Croft

This adventure calls upon the author's extensive foreign travel and intimate knowledge of the turbulent era when the Shah of Iran was replaced by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The main character in the book, Greg, also on a cusp in his life gambles on a new travel business by taking five westerners on an overland Land Rover trip across Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Iran to India. Caught up in the Iranian revolution the group see sights too horrible for the usual touristy trip, but worse, they are kidnapped and held in gruesome conditions. Poor Greg realizes he should have researched his geopolitics more carefully but tries to look after his clients even though he becomes suspicious of each one's real identity and motivation. That's all the dry plot summary I'm giving but don't go yet.

Few travel fiction books carry the reader along on the journey as well as Michael Hunt does in his books and in this one you feel the heat, the tension, see the landscape and take away the feeling you've been there in person. You smell the odours and feel the fear in this page turner; a damned good read. On the other hand, do they reach India? Does Greg grab the woman he fancies on the trip? Why does he have to endure the stench of blood for hours at a time? What is a VIP woman doing on a trip to a volatile part of the world, and can Greg keep her safe? Does anybody believe him when he finally tells the truth although does he really know what that is? Read Two Days in Tehran to find out. Geoff Nelder

Starting your own adventure vacation company – good idea. Wandering into Iran as it's about to experience a massive revolution – bad idea. "Two Days in Tehran" follows Greg Alexander as he finds himself caught between two sides of the revolution, and may be facing a third side of hostility from the very crew he was guiding. His only goal is to escape with his life and his passengers' lives intact- a goal that's more trouble than it seems. An intriguing tale straight through, "Two Days in Tehran" is highly recommended. Midwest Book Review

An elegantly written thriller. As each page turns faster than the last, the tension is palpable and claustrophobic. The only disappointment is that the book has to end. I would recommend it as the perfect novel for readers who enjoy a meticulously crafted adventure of epic proportions. If you enjoyed the twists and turns in the film "In Bruges ", this is a must read. Sue Plover

Michael J Hunt's new book 'Two Days in Tehran' takes him from his usual stomping ground in Africa to the wilds of the Iran-Afghanistan border. Wherever he chooses to land though, Mr Hunt has an unerring ear for a good story.

This first person romp follows the Adventure Tour operator Gregory Alexander on an overland trip to India with a Land Rover full of fellow travellers. As the title suggests, it's when they arrive in Tehran that things go awry and they all get a lot more adventure than anyone would ever have dreamed of.

Mr Hunt's fast moving narrative keeps you on the hop right through to the very last page with the exciting twists and turns of events surrounding the revolution of the Ayatollahs and what happens when innocent European travellers become involved ... or are they? By my book, it's the read for this summer. Ray Busa

Greg Alexander is taking a party of five on an overland journey by landrover to India. Plenty of scope for incident and adventure you may think, but you could not imagine what befalls the group in terms of alarm, excitement and terror.

They journey across Europe to Iran. Prior to entering the city of Tehran they have no knowledge of the imminent revolution, leading to the deposition of the Shah. The party find themselves unwittingly caught up in the morass of Middle Eastern politics and the dichotomies of opposing factions. Problems swiftly arise, compounded by the mistrust that arises amongst themselves, Greg hardly knowing who or what to believe.

Despite Greg's efforts to continue the journey, the expedition falls foul of the Shah's secret police, in the shape of Saktari, who is fond of saying 'things may not always be as they seem' - and so it is, throughout this remarkable story.

As well as a story of high adventure, it is also revelatory about events in Iran at that time, which previously you may not have been aware of. Michael Hunt's knowledge of foreign politics and foreign countries is extensive, as we learned from his previous books. Read this well written novel yourself, with it's unrelenting pace and tension. Kate Edwards

Michael Hunt is a well known exponent of the narrative art who has written a fast moving story with sufficient twists and turns to keep the reader fully engrossed. The story is set against the backdrop of the fall of the Shah of Iran and the subsequent horrors and turmoil that beset the region. The story follows a group of holidaying adventurers who are inevitably caught up in the frightening uncertainties. However, as the story unfolds we discover that the holiday makers are not all they seem.

Michael Hunt has led an adventurous life and has travelled in the volatile Middle East on numerous occasions. It is clear that he knows the area and the trails that traverse it. And if you read this book you will travel those trails with him. Highly recommended. Peter Tomlinson, The Petronicus Legacy

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was drawn into a story of dangerous subterfuge where the central characters, on the surface seasoned travellers, are innocents abroad at the mercy of murky factional wrangling. Suspense mounts as they learn some hard and brutal lessons. I was struck by the beautiful descriptions of the desert landscapes in which the heroes must act or die. s6456

Brilliantly written adventure book with vivid characters, which grabbed my attention from its first pages till the last one. Middle Eastern history, politics and culture are well presented, the author definitely knows the subject.

I felt like undertaking the journey together with Greg on his the Land Rover tour. My husband and I love traveling and we may possibly consider going to the Middle East next year (booking our trip through a proper travel agency though :-) Natalya Popova

A huge welcome to Michael J Hunt's latest book. It is different from the previous two but it is most definitely equal to them for excitement and interest. It is a good, gripping, adventure yarn and, as always, very well written.

Michael obviously knows the area and has a good understanding of the politics of Iran at the time of the Revolution and removal of the Shah.

The story builds slowly as we get to know the characters, all of whom are well drawn and believable. It then explodes into action. I had to read the last seventy-five pages in one sitting (much to the annoyance of my wife!)

I am left wondering which bits are the true story and which the fiction!

Well done, Michael, and I'm looking forward to your next one. Marcus Woodhouse

Having read both Michael J. Hunt's previous novels, I was determined to read the next as soon as it was released. I have just finished Two Days in Tehran and it is every bit as exciting as its predecessors.

I knew very little about the geography, politics and machinations in the Middle East but now I know a little more, painlessly, sustained by a tense, thrilling narrative.

The characters are real, believable, with human flaws; bluff and double bluff is subtly conveyed as we doubt the motives and allegiances of each as the plot develops. I was engrossed to the end. Michael Hunt is a master teller of tales. G Wood

Greg Alexander sets up the ultimate adventure vacation company ... and accidentally treks into the bloody revolution to overthrow the Shah of Iran.

Not only does Greg face treachery on either side of the bitter struggle for power and survival, he soon finds that he can't even trust the seemingly innocent western travellers in his own party.

His life and those of his passengers swing in a precarious balance as Greg tries to make sense of the murky and muddled politics, alliances and feuds of the Middle East and navigate the twisting road to safety.

Based on a real life journey and a bloody revolution that changed the face of Islam, sending out shockwaves that rock the world three decades later.

Read an excerpt from Two Days in Tehran

Watch Two Days in Tehran book trailer

Click here for more information about Michael J Hunt

Also by Michael J Hunt: Matabele Gold | The African Journals of Petros Amm

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