Book Review: Catalyst by Paul Byers

catalyst-front-300Title: Catalyst

Author: Paul Byers

Genre: World War II Spy Thriller

Rating: 3 stars

Author Website

 Purchase from: Amazon , SmashwordsB&N

In the waning months of World War II, the allied armies advance upon the crumbling German war machine like a juggernaut. In a final desperate bid to save the Fatherland, a plan is conceived that could turn the tide of the war-the completion of an advanced jet-propelled bomber capable of delivering a deadly payload to the shores of America.

Captain Griff Avery of the OSS has just botched the defection of a prominent German physicist, a man crucial to the Nazi end game, letting him fall into the hands of the rogue SS General masterminding the plot. But Avery’s troubles have only just begun: overwhelming evidence points to the woman he loves as the German spy who foiled the defection.

Now under suspicion himself, Avery sifts through the lies and deceit, uncovering the treacherous German operation. Against orders and on the run, Avery is forced to wage a secret war of his own, recruiting the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress and a reckless group of flyboys and their P-51 Mustangs to help him hunt down the secret SS cell and prevent the slaughter-no matter what the cost.

My brother is a World War II nut. He reads every book he can find on the subject, and he’s watched so many World War II documentaries it’s hard to keep count of. Since we shared a TV and books growing up, I’ve read a few books and watched a few documentaries on the topic myself, so I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on World War II. I found some things I thought were inconsistencies with how it really happened in this book. The protagonists are attacked by the Russians in France, but as far as I know the Russian army didn’t set foot in France during World War II. I asked my brother about this, and he confirmed my suspicions. There were a few other, minor historical errors that threw me a bit off-track but were perhaps necessary for the story and plot.

There’s a lot of explanation about how aviation works, and it’s clear that’s where the author’s true passion is. I didn’t find it distracting, because it interlatched with some action scenes or dialogue, but sometimes it did slow the pacing down.

I liked main characte Griff Avery. He’s a complicated, multi-dimensional man. I wasn’t too fond of his encounter with Anna at the start. She’s mugged, he rescues her, and they end up spending the night together and starting an affair. I found this highly unlikely. It would be plausible that afterward they got to know each other, but I absolutely hate all the love at first sight crap, and even if they knew each other beforehand, it’s clear they didn’t know each other that well, so I would’ve preferred if the reader was eased into the relationship rather than thrown into it.

I liked the action scenes, the secrets, the suspenseful plot twists thrown around here and there. The book was a bit slow at the start, and also a bit technical, but the pace really picked up halfway through. I like how the book featured so many different things, from secret pacts, to bombers, to plans that would change the outcome of war forever, to prison camps, to the horrors of war.

The writing was a bit formal at the start, and the characters could’ve used more groundwork early on, but since this is the author’s first novel, I’m willing to cut him some slack on both accounts.

If you’re a fan of World War II, thrillers, spy novels, or books that deal with aviation, give Catalyst a try. It’s an enjoyable read.

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