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All The Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith

All The Young Warriors

by Anthony Neil Smith

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From a double cop-killing on the frozen streets of Minnesota to the burning sands of Mogadishu, Somali pirates and a brutal civil war, All The Young Warriors is an epic thriller spanning continents and cultures.
Murder, warfare, piracy, love, betrayal and revenge – this is a white-knuckle ride for fans of James Lee Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series), Richard Price (Lush Life) and Michael Connelly (the Harry Bosch series).

"a brilliant book, possibly the best novel of the year."
– Les Edgerton

Winner of the 2012 Spinetingler Award for Best Novel: Rising Star

The story…

When two of the Twin Cities' “Lost Boys” — young Somali men drafted to fight for terrorists back in the homeland — kill a pair of cops on his home turf, detective Ray Bleeker is left devastated. One of the dead cops was his girlfriend.

The investigation grinds to a halt when he discovers that the young murderers have fled to Somalia to fight in the rebel army. He's at his wits' end until the father of one of the boys, an ex-gang leader called Mustafa, comes looking for answers. Bleeker and Mustafa form an uneasy alliance, teaming up to help bring the boys back home.

But little do they know what Somalia has in store for them.

I've read a few of Neil Smith's books previously; Psychosomatic, The Drummer and most recently the slightly disappointing Yellow Medecine - albeit a few years ago now. After that disappointment, I've steered clear of his subsequent books until now - if this book is indicative of his latest output, it's been my loss.

From the off Smith grabbed my attention and never let it go. The first scene has 2 cops hauling over a couple of Somali-American boys driving erratically in the snow. The encounter ends badly for the cops, one of them the pregnant girlfriend of Bleeker another cop.

The Somalian boys, Adem – a reluctant accomplice, in way over his head; and Jibriil – now a cold-stone killer, flee the scene and shortly afterwards the country. Having been recently “educated” and steered towards the more radical extremist side of their Muslim faith, their end destination of Mogadishu, Somalia sees them take up arms in the struggle to establish Sharia law.
The action splits between Minnesota and a vengeful Bleeker, seeking answers and retribution in blood and the bleak, impoverished capital of Somalia where casual violence and death in the name of Islam is the norm.

Bleeker’s quest has him crossing swords with Mustafa - Adem’s reformed, ex- gang-banger father, also hunting his son and some answers. These two form an uneasy alliance in the hunt for the long gone killer(s).
Meanwhile in Somalia, Jibriil actively embraces the struggle and thrives in the chaotic, African cess-pit whilst Adem questions his faith and the path he has meekly embraced. The two friends; initially bound together travel ever-diverging paths.

The contrast between the snow and icy Minnesotan landscape and the heat-soaked African capital added to my enjoyment. Throw in a mix of likeable and believable characters, with a diversity of backgrounds and histories. Add to the plot the dynamics of a young, armed, angry, impoverished and radical population. Chuck in a bit of civil war, cross-border terror and a healthy dose of Somalian piracy, interspersed with black-ops American fixers, BBC reporters and a few out-of-depth aid workers.
If you get the mix exactly right; character, setting, plot and motivation and can skilfully blend graphic, but never gratuitous violence, including death and torture, with love, loss and family loyalties you may end up with a book as rewarding and fantastic as this one.

Probably not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no locked room mystery, no little old sleuthing pensioner ladies and there’s a distinct lack of cats, but for me it was bang on and ticked every box.
If I wasn’t labouring under a deluge of un-read books already, and a fanciful new year’s resolution to limit my new book acquisitions to 10% of what I read, I’d be on-line ordering more Anthony Neil Smith today. I’ll have to make do with adding Hotdoggin’ and Choke On Your Lies to my wishlist.

5 from 5 – and an early contender for book of the month.
I bought this last year as a kindle read on Amazon-UK.

( )
  col2910 | Apr 17, 2014 |
This is Smith's best book yet (as of August 2013, anyway), which is saying quite a lot, as the Billy LaFitte series is tough competition. Like the LaFitte books, ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS is full of gut-turning violence, filthy language, and characters of questionable morality. But whereas LaFitte has a bit of an over-the-top cartoon superantihero feel to him that detracts a little from the otherwise gritty nature of the stories, ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS is taken straight from reality. It starts with a hideous murder of two small town Minnesota police, then follows the two young Somalis, Jibriil and Adem, who were involved from Minnesota to Somalia where they go to join the fight against--well, the West, I guess, but the ragtag Somali militia they join spends a lot more time stealing from its own people and meting out blood-curdling punishments to members of their own group for various offenses. One of Smith's great strengths as a writer is that he doesn't flinch at anything. He will go where the story needs to go and he will write what he has to write--whether it is a stoning for adultery or cutting someone's hand off for stealing bread.

The book alternates chapters between what is happening in Somalia and a Minnesota cop's very personal pursuit of the killer. It's personal because one of the police who was killed was his lover--three months pregnant with his child--and he was in the process of leaving his wife for her. The cop, Ray Bleeker, is not a sympathetic character no matter how much we feel for his loss. He is constantly on edge, a danger to himself and everyone around him, and he goes out of his way to offend. This is quite problematic since in order to track down the killer, he needs the help of Adem's father, Mustafa, the ex-leader of a Twin Cities Somali gang who quit for his son's sake and now works at the Target warehouse! Mustafa is not a person to be trifled with, but in a nice twist, it is the ex-gang leader who is the calming influence in this mismatched duo. Slowly they begin to understand and trust each other enough to start to trace the whereabouts of Adem, whom Mustafa believes to be innocent of the murder, and Jibriil, who he is convinced pulled the trigger.

From Minnesota to Somalia, this is a riveting tale of almost non-stop action that the author never lets get out of control. There are a lot of other memorable characters along the way, but I won't give away any more of the story than I have. This is a book you must read. Smith is quite simply one of the best writers I have ever read, and this is a masterfully told story that will grab both your gut and your heart. ( )
  datrappert | Aug 11, 2013 |
It's curious how many years one can go without reading a book about Somali gangs and pirates, and then to read two in one year...

Earlier this year, I read "Crossbones," of which I wrote: "A young man of Somali descent disappears from his Minneapolis home. His stepfather, Ahl, and uncle, Malik, a journalist, travel to Somalia in an attempt to find him and bring him home. This is the post-Blackhawk Down Somalia, before and in the early days of the Ethiopian invasion to drive out the Islamic Courts and restore - with U.S. backing - a more secular government. It is a dangerous country for everyone, particularly journalists and opponents of the Courts. The author takes the reader on a lengthy tour of recent Somali history and politics, Islamic thought in urban and rural Somalia, piracy and fishing disputes, kidnapping as a political and economic weapon, terrorism and bombing, and international relations in the Horn of Africa. The author, Nuruddin Farah, takes too much time dealing with family back-and-forth discussions about their histories and the Somali character, and many of the characters within the family are among the least interesting. Of more interest are the pirates, Shabbab terrorists, and their financial enablers. It's a good read, but not a great one."

"All the Young Warriors" treats essentially the same subject, but in a very different way. Anthony Neil Smith has written an action novel that pairs a burned-out, small-town, Minnesota cop with a former Minneapolis gang-banger of Somali descent to bring back from Somalia the killer(s) of the cop's girlfriend; one of whom might be the Somali's son. Stateside, they battle to form a trusting relationship while working to break the chain of recruitment to jihad of young Somali-Americans living in the nation's heartland. Overseas, they search for the two Somali suspects in terrorist camps of the Horn of Africa. The book also tells the story of the two young men, Jibril, the impulsive, gangsta wannabe, and Adem, a college student searching for his Somali and Muslim roots. beginning with the shooting of two Minnesota cops, the two examine their faith, desire for power and influence, and willingness to kill for their cause, as members of a ruthless militia and as pawns of a gang of pirates who prey on international shipping.

This is a fast-paced, exciting, and thoughtful book that deals with race, religion, nationality, prejudice, vengeance, and culture. It is, however, by no means a perfect book. At different points, the author refers to Somalis and at other Somalians; words that shouldn't be capitalized (such as spring and east)are, while others that should be capitalized (such as Muslim) are not. Most of the characters are well-drawn, but at least one is shockingly off-base, a college international studies director who has little good to say about international students. I worked 22 years for two universities, and never heard anything but total support from ISP staff for their international students, regardless of nationality. While Smith writes powerfully, he's a bit too enamored with the use of three-to-five word phrases rather than complete sentences.

One paragraph does, perhaps, boil down the strife that affects the Somali-Ethiopian conflict that provides the context for this novel: "Why Ethiopia? Because Ethiopians had invaded Somalia, occupied it, and killed indiscriminately. And they were Christian. Now they'd been chased back, but still attacked whenever they felt like it. Same with the Somalis, tit for tat. Mutual hatred. Nothing better to do." And life goes on. ( )
  fromkin | Mar 27, 2012 |
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