Back in 1983 a nuclear strike was averted. Now, in 2019, the story is about to explode.

Launch Code is a standalone novel by Michael Ridpath that was published last year. It follows two timelines – one from 1983 when, at the height of the Cold War, a US submarine came within seconds of triggering World War 3; and the other in the present day when one of the submarine’s officers (Bill Guth) finds himself, and his family, caught up in a murder and espionage enquiry.

The present-day story is set in Norfolk, where Bill and his family have gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving. A historian arrives to try and interview Bill about 1983 and ends up staying for the Thanksgiving meal. When he’s found dead in his hotel room the next day, the family finds itself at the centre of a murder investigation.

Both timelines are well managed so you never feel you’re being bounced between them. And the storytelling is believable and steady, with no unnecessary drama. Instead you have time to get to know the characters and care about what is happening. I found it a very satisfying read. When I started this book I wasn’t sure if I would like it but I was hooked in quickly and really enjoyed it.

I have, in fact, read a lot of Ridpath’s novels over the years. I discovered his books back in the late 1990s when I read a couple of his financial thrillers and found them absolutely gripping. Later I got hooked on his Fire and Ice series, set in Iceland and featuring detective Magnus Jonson.

Ridpath has a knack of making you like his characters. Even his villains, sometimes. This makes his novels very readable and I enjoyed Launch Code very much. 4 Stars from me.
Review by: Cornish Eskimo