Andy McNab's thrillers have been enormously successful, and Dark Winter will no doubt allow his publishers to add more noughts to his already impressive sales figures. McNab's secret is reliability. He always delivers the kind of high-octane thrills his readers expect and seems immune to the hit-or-miss syndrome that afflicts so many thriller writers. Dark Winter has the tough (and battered) Nick Stone back in business, still parleying the skills he learnt in the SAS into his new role as a Special Intelligence Service operative. Al-Qaeda are concentrating their forces in south-east Asia (McNab is as topical as ever), and Nick is sent by the CIA to deal with one of Osama bin Laden's most dangerous biochemists. But Nick is given a female partner, and the mission takes unexpected turns. Back in the US, and struggling with the problems of being guardian to an orphaned girl, Nick finds a whole nest of terrorists plotting atrocities in both the US and the UK, and his involvement becomes (against his will) very personal indeed. As always, the mixture here is incandescent, punctuating steadily accelerating narrative trajectory with stunningly orchestrated bursts of action at frequent intervals. McNab's characterisation of anyone other than the resourceful Nick is serviceable rather than detailed, but this is a strategy to ensure that the principal ingredient here--bone-crunching action--is always foregrounded. It may be a while since McNab was an SAS man himself, but the tradecraft is always coolly plausible, and McNab fans can count on getting their money's worth.