Bullet Catcher by Chris Bradford

8/10 Fast-paced and enthralling.

Chris Bradford, author of the Ninja, Young Samurai and Bodyguard series is back with the first in a new trilogy, Bullet Catcher. Released over a 3 year span, the first novel is Bullet Catcher, where 14-year-old Troy and his parents are in a shopping mall when terrorists strike, killing his parents and shooting him. The possibility of him dying would be real if he was a normal boy, but Troy has not even been hurt. His easy recovery has come to the notice of SPEAR (Security, Protection and Elemental Assault Response), a secret agency who want him to join them as protector of rich society people. Training him should be a cinch, but it's in his best interests to learn all he needs to about close protection techniques as a bullet catcher.

Troy is a shy type of kid with zero talent for getting himself a girlfriend, he's never dated or kissed a girl, so when he's faced with the chance of asking a girl out at the local mall - his thoughts are cut short by terrorist gunmen who are part of the AF, or Army of Freedom who attack Terminus City. As Troy's parents are dead, he has no one to act as guardian or take care of him, and no one to take him in due to the council's one family, one child policy. Troy has no choice but to come with the representative of SPEAR, Medusa, as he can contribute a lot to the organization and he might not have too much of a problem fitting in, though with the death of his parents it could take some time before he can be himself again.

Once Troy is shown to the abandoned library where he will train as a member of SPEAR he gets to meet the other special kids he will train and work with, Kasia, Lennox, Joe and Azumi. He is eased into the group and told it's not all bad, he has his own bed, real food (as it's set in the near future where all food is synthetic) and he soon realises how good he's got it there, where he will also be training with state of the art equipment. There are other fun pieces of kit and one in particular, but I won't spoil it for the reader. When Troy completes his training (Busho Jitsu) or One Second Fighting taught by Apollo, he can go on to be a full part of the team and be sent on his first assignment, Mission Pandora. Troy and the team have to protect the mayor and his daughter, Pandora, as SPEAR believes the AF will strike soon. What happens is fast-paced and enthralling and the ending has a neat twist element attached to it that shocked me. I enjoyed the pacing of the story, the fact that Troy had to earn the respect of his team mates as well as their approval (but the others weren't as perfect as they made out - they all had flaws when they went out on missions, but they were extra hard on Troy as he was the newbie). All the team have special abilities and powers as bullet catchers and I'm eagerly waiting for the next in the series to blast through and sock it to me in both eyes.

So he could write the book, Chris Bradford had taken a training course in close protection so he could make the story as genuine as possible, his training in defensive driving, unarmed combat, tactical firearms, threat assessments, anti-ambush and surveillance adding an extra edge to his writing. In Brighton, Chris launches the book with a day of events in association with the Jubilee Library and Book Nook bookshop in Hove. Chris's events are something of a spectacle as he uses performances to make for dynamic reading and audience participation, after which Chris will hand out limited edition Bullet Catcher wristbands at this and other events during 2015.

Bullet Catcher: Sniper and Bullet Catcher: Blowback will be released in June 2016 and June 2017 respectively.

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