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Sniper's Honor by Stephen Hunter

Sniper's Honor

by Stephen Hunter

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154577,562 (3.63)1



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An aging, charismatic cowboy with a unique set of skills seeking a cause to champion. A dedicated WW2 sniper, subsequently dishonoured and forgotten. A real and present-day WMD threat, chillingly described. Overlooked events in the dog days of the fight between Nazi Germany and the Red Army. The working day grind of an intelligence analyst in a national security agency.

All these aspects form the story of ‘Sniper’s Honor’ to create a deceptively clever, multi-layered thriller. You don’t notice how smart is it because you’re rattling through the chapters, desperate to find out what happens next…

The result is both an historical military novel and a ripping read. It’s a ‘boys are back in town’ Bob Lee Swagger story to please long-term fans of the series, but it’s also easily accessible to newcomers. It’s stuffed full of gun tech, military expertise, bone-shattering ballistic description and the ‘feels right’ attention to detail which in the hands of some writers turns to stodge, but which Stephen Hunter delivers with aplomb.

The short chapters switch between half a dozen different perspectives, split between the modern day and 1944. Back then, the German army is in retreat and the SS are settling scores by wiping out civilian settlements in eastern Europe. A Red Army sniper – one of several women who undertook that role – has been despatched to eradicate a particularly unpleasant Nazi officer before he flees overseas to sanctuary. But she has been betrayed…

…in the modern world, Bob Lee’s interest is piqued when a reporter friend starts tugging at this thread, looking for a story. At first it feels as if they’re just carrying out an in-depth news investigation but pretty quickly it becomes clear they’ve trodden on sensitive toes, and the ghosts of the past are wrapped up with a plot in the present.

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If you’ve read all of the sprawling Swagger series then you’ll spot the differences from the early books. The recent episodes have lost the bitter grit and visceral intensity of the Earl Swagger stories. Sniper’s Honor is obviously written by a mature author about a mature protagonist, and it relies more on polished and perfected technique to ratchet up the tension, rather than directly engaging the reader’s emotions.
8/10 ( )
  RowenaHoseason | Jun 22, 2016 |
This book involves two story lines. One occurs in the Ukraine in 1944 as Russia halts the German advance during WWII and begins pushing the German army back towards Berlin. The other occurs in the present as Bob Lee "The Nailer" Swagger and a reporter pal Kathy Reilly work to uncover the story behind the disappearance of Ludmilla "Mili" Petrova, a Russian sniper who was tasked with killing a high ranking German official. Although one of Russia's most revered snipers, it appears that she failed in her assignment and disappeared completely after that. Before long Russian thugs hired by what appears to be some agency of the American government are attempting to kill Bob and Kathy, and a top level Israeli intelligence analyst is working to understand why some unknown party just made an unexpectedly large purchase of platinum.

As with all novels involving multiple story lines, the book is frustrating at times. Just as the development of one story line becomes interesting the book makes an abrupt change to another story line that is, at that point, less interesting. It takes patience and a significant amount of time before all of the essential characters become familiar and the critical plot elements are introduced. Even then, the Zeigarnik effect is significant as the time frame and focal character shifts repeatedly..

Despite that frustration, I don't think the story could be told as effectively using an alternative approach. The story becomes captivating as the book approaches the last 100 pages and you will find yourself rooting for more than one of the "doomed" characters. In the end Hunter manages to tie most of the plot elements together. The final disposition of the platinum and its owner is an exception, and the final pages violate the "show, don't tell" dictum to wrap up the remaining loose end. Those weaknesses reduce my rating by half a star. ( )
  Tatoosh | May 1, 2016 |
Very good novel. Hunter runs both a narrative story of a beautiful Russian sniper in the eastern front and one with hero Swagger in current times as he ferrets out her fate. ( )
  jimmoz | Sep 17, 2014 |
Bob Lee Swagger is a historian about snipers besides being one himself. He's contacted by his friend Kathy Reilly who asks his help in learning about a woman sniper who was active in WWII.

Swagger is glad to help. The sniper, Mili Petrova is known as the White Witch.

We read about Petrova in action during WWII. She and a German sniper are playing a game of cat and mouse. Whoever shows themselves first will be the target of the other.

After Mili wins this competition, she's ordered to Ukraine. Her target is the leading Nazi of the area. He's responsible for sending many Jews to their deaths. However, Petrova must act quickly because the Russian offensive is about to begin and the Germans will retreat from the area.

In alternating chapters, we read of Petrova's actions and then in contemporary time, what history Swagger and Reilly learn of the military activities in Ukraine in 1944.

A new element is added to the story when an American man, possibly CIA, tells Swagger and Reilly to drop their search for Petrova's records and leave the area. Of course, this only makes them more determined.

A member of the Mossad learns that something is being developed in Ukraine that when mixed will provide a chemical that had been used to kill Jews in the concentration camps.

There are some very interesting and likable characters. My favorite was a German officer in a Parachute Battalion. He is ordered to set explosives to slow up the Russian advance but he's also supposed to search for Petrova.

It's a fascinating story that held my attention throughout. I did find an editing mistake were a character who is a friend of Swagger is referred to as JT in one part of the novel is then called JF in another.

Other than that, I enjoyed the read and await the next adventure written by Stephen Hunter. ( )
  mikedraper | Jul 29, 2014 |
Sniper’s Honor I found to be a very good read. I do tend to enjoy a book that tells a story of the past and the present in tandem. Here we have Bob Lee Swagger, a rather famous contemporary sniper who learns about Milli Petrova, a WWII Russian sniper who killed Nazi’s and then disappeared. We get the two stories in parallel. Bob trying to find out what happened to Milli and Milli’s story.

Swagger’s friend Kathy Reilly, a reporter for the Washington Post, sent him an email asking about an old Russian sniper rifle. It peaks Bob’s interest, especially when she mentions it’s in relation to a Russian sniper that disappeared from all the records. A beautiful woman sniper.

Swagger decides to hop a plane and go help his friend do a little snooping to see if between them then can find out what happened to Milli. After they meet up and start poking around, Bob starts wondering if someone was still trying to hide whatever it was that happened to Sergeant Petrova.

What we learn is that she is betrayed by someone in her own government to the Nazi’s. Stalin has sent her to assassinate a man that a high ranking Nazi spy can’t afford to have killed. So he betrays her and does his best to have her erased from the record books. This makes Bob and Kathy’s job much more difficult.

I really enjoyed reading this book. There was a lot of good information about sniper’s and I learned a bit about the Russian sniper’s from WWII. I also enjoyed learning about some of the battles that happened on the Russian side against the Germans. Most history classes I’ve had focus on the Western European battles. I liked the story on both ends, and I thought it was very well written. It was certainly very engaging and I plan to be reading more Bob Lee Swagger books in the future! ( )
  readafew | Jun 23, 2014 |
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"Bob Lee Swagger is in love--with a woman who died 70 years ago. Ludmilla "Mili" Petrova was a great Russian sniper in World War II until she disappeared on a mission and was virtually erased from history. When Kathy Reilly of the Washington Post encounters a brief mention of Petrova in an old Russian propaganda magazine, she begins building a story around the legendary female sniper, who was once dubbed Die Weisse Hexe--The White Witch--and lauded by enemies and comrades alike. Mili's luxurious blonde hair and statuesque figure belied her fierce resolve to avenge the deaths of her husband and family by joining Stalin's Army and using her sharpshooting expertise to defeat Hitler's organization--ideally from the top down. There is very little on record for Reilly to mine for her profile, which only makes her want to dig deeper, enlisting her friend and former marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger to parse out the scarce details of Mili's astonishing military service. The more Swagger learns about the circumstances of Mili's last mission, the more he reveres the beautiful Russian heroine and longs to have known a fellow sniper with such courage and skill. And the more he believes her disappearance was no accident, and that Mili Petrova, while an essential player in Stalin's master plan, was merely a pawn in some larger conspiracy. But why would the Russian government go to such great lengths to erase one of their own decorated, legendary soldiers from history? And why, when Swagger joins Kathy Reilly on a research trip to the Carpathian Mountains, is someone trying to kill them for what they might find?"--… (more)

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