Chameleon is a term that can be used to describe a person who constantly changes with consummate ease; it is not a charge that could be leveled at Mark Burnell. His reaction to the success of his debut novel, 'The Rhythm Section' has been to give his fans second helpings of murder, mystery and suspense.

'Chameleon' is a classic thriller. A tale of spies, deceit and intrigue, Burnell fulfills the promise that he showed with his debut. Readers are again introduced to Stephanie Patrick - a femme fatale who wouldn't look out of place on Bogart's arm - and quickly sucked back into the murky world of terrorism and counter-intelligence, populated by people who may not be what they seem. In tandem with the thrills of a spy novel comes a love story, between our heroine and 'legitimate businessman' Konstantin Komarov. Burnell's novel stands out because of the love affair, which is, for once in this genre, believable and more than mere titillation for a prurient male readership.

Burnell's book is a pacy page-turner that, like Stephanie, hits all its targets. The spy plot is fully fleshed out, drawing the reader into the story, which rattles along with a narrative drive that is all too rare in modern fiction. The devil - as with 'The Rhythm Section' - is in the detail. Burnell's novel is incredibly well researched, although at times the attention to the smallest details does grate. His commitment to close, complex description occasionally breaks the otherwise hectic narrative pace with tangents that are neither useful nor necessary.

Despite this, 'Chameleon' is a fantastic read. Burnell manages to harness a Grisham-like ability to enthrall, while maintaining some literary credibility. The book's plot is pure pulp fiction but his style is such that it transcends its contemporaries. A unique adventure, with the requisite depth and intelligence to make Burnell stand out from his peers.

John Raftery