Book Review: Goodbye California - Alistair Maclean

"Goodbye California" is a rare book from the Alistair Maclean Stable - you will not find it available in most book stores. It might be available in the online stores, though. I had picked this book up  last year, read it and kept it away... my attention was drawn to it when I was  looking for a change from my usual genres.

How do you review an Alistair Maclean Book? Close to impossible, with each story being a roller coaster ride full of twists and turns. You cannot give any details of the plot - delve into it in any level of detail, and you run the risk of spoiling the reader's fun. In a review, you have to give the reader a reason to either pick up the book, or stay away. To do that, you have to peel away some of the story. And in the case of the present author, doing that requires a delicate balance and precaution as to how far you can go with your words. Yes, I am enamoured by the style of Alistair Maclean - let me admit that at the outset. Despite that, this is my first attempt at reviewing Maclean, although I have read nearly all of his books. However, in the case of this particular book, having read all of his books proved to be a distinct disadvantage, as the comparison factor kicked in, lessening my overall enjoyment of the book in hand. Perhaps that is the biggest drawback of being an author- your works tend to get compared with your best works, rather than on the merits of each individual work in a standalone mode. 

The italicized line above needs to be kept in mind by all Maclean enthusiasts and fans. If you are not a Maclean regular, then no worries- the book under discussion is a classic, an unputdownable page turner. Maclean specialises in suspense action thrillers, with the suspense being revealed a little before the end of the novel. Get that point: despite the suspense being revealed, the book manages to attract and keep your attention to the last page. That is the hallmark of Maclean, his signature style. The action and / or the suspense continues till the very last page. This book is no different. As usual, the plot is laid out the first few pages - and then the action picks up. 

The story revolves around a nuclear threat to California, as large amounts of Nuclear Material - Uranium - gets stolen in a daring daytime raid. Simultaneously, several highly qualified specialists and nuclear physicists are also kidnapped. At this point, the author makes his signature felt: the key investigator turns out to be a father-son combination whose family has unfortunately been kidnapped in the same raid as hostages instead of a top-level investigation by the official forces. The main drivers, contributor to the investigation are these 2 local policemen. We are treated to some good old-fashioned simple brainwork: how did the perpetrators of the crime have specific inside information? How and where did they escape so totally? The main protagonist is a sergeant on the local police forces who has very recently written a severe critique of the security measures at the nuclear plant, and is thus in an ideal position to investigate. This fact makes the whole plot believable, especially since the sergeant also has the greatest motive: his wife and daugher's security. The problem at hand is compounded by the rather uncomfortable fact that California is sitting on a major fault of the earth's crust, and is thus earthquake-prone. The criminals threaten to explode a nuclear bomb in the fault, this causing a major earthquake. In usual Maclean style, public fear is used to get this message across as the plans are made public on television

If you have not read Maclean before, or have read only one or 2 - go for it. This is a truly superb book, will keep you glued to each page and keeps the momentum going throughout. It sets a racy pace and maintains it, in classic Maclean style. For Maclean regulars - remember my italicized line above- judge each book on its individual merits. If you start comparing this with the Navarone series or the Golden Rendezvous, then you are going to be disappointed. On the other hand - approach it with an open mind, and you will find the Maclean stamp over every page: A racy pace, a protagonist from normal citizenry, a tight plot, action-filled suspense,  low on melodrama, edge-of-the-seat climax, a massive threat to peace, superbly organised and well-coordinated criminals and a believable plot. What more can you ask for? My verdict: Go For It! It is a great book!


  1. Glad to see that MacLean is still thrilling readers today.

    "How do you review an Alistair Maclean Book? Close to impossible ..."

    And yet, some of us try. Please see my reviews of every novel MacLean wrote (and many of the films based on them) at my website:

  2. @Dog Walking Frisco... yes, it is worth a read

    @Big Dave... just visited your site - agree 100% with your rating.


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