Reviews of The Black Sun

“A reformed legendary art-thief, Tom Kirk, bursts onto the scene like a modern-day Raffles with a gun in his pocket. An anti-hero who can be worse than the bad guys when necessary. A story that harks back to the Nazis, Hitler, and a legendary treasure. What more could you want?

If there’s a better thriller this year I would like to see it.”
Jack Higgins, International bestselling author of The Eagle has Landed

US Reviews

Art thefts, a missing train, Russian gangsters, secret identities and plenty of blood and gore. There’s something for thriller fans of all types in James Twining’s second novel, The Black Sun.

In an author’s note, Twining says he was inspired by the true story of what has come to be known as the Nazis’ Hungarian Gold Train. U.S. military forces discovered it hidden in an Austrian tunnel near the end of the war. It was packed with billions of dollars’ worth of stolen art, gold and other treasures.Twining weaves history, legend and lore with his keen imagination to tell his story.

Schwarze Sonne – Black Sun – was the name of a secret order of the SS, a powerful military and security organization active in Nazi Germany. The secret plottings of the elite order are at the heart of this book, but the story takes place in modern times.

In London, an Auschwitz survivor is murdered in a hospital. The killers cut off his arm and take it with them. In Prague, a seemingly unremarkable painting is stolen from a synagogue. In Fort Meade, Md., a World War II-era Enigma machine used for encrypting messages is stolen from the National Cryptologic Museum.

The three incidents kick off a thrill-a-page story that has the CIA, treasure hunters and neo-Nazis hunting for a missing train said to be filled with priceless art treasures stolen from Nazi-overrun countries during World War II. From London to St. Petersburg and on to Munich, Zurich and Westphalia in Germany, The Black Sun never loses speed – all the way to the story’s culmination in an abandoned mine in Austria.

The chapters are short and to the point, and always end with some satisfying drama … The Black Sun is pure, unadulterated fun.
USA Today, November 2006

The author follows The Double Eagle (2005) with this equally entertaining sequel. Around the world, thieves are committing strange robberies and bizarre murders, all of them apparently connected to World War II and Nazi Germany.

To solve the crimes, art thief turned investigator Tom Kirk and his partner (and former fence), Archie Connolly, must navigate their way through a labyrinth of devious clues left behind by a supersecret Nazi group more than half a century ago. At the end of the trail: a world-shattering secret and a showdown with Tom’s archnemesis.

As he did in The Double Eagle, Twining plunges into the story on page 1 and rarely slows down until the finale. Fast paced and exciting, with a -bigger-than-life villain, a conflicted hero, and a solid payoff: What more does a thriller need?
Booklist – December 2006

“It was one of the greatest works of art ever made. It must be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. What else would have warranted Himmler assigning his most elite troops to guard duty? What else would they have gone to such lengths to conceal?” At this point, Tom Kirk, art thief turned thief catcher, has unraveled the mystery that lies at the center of THE BLACK SUN. He thinks.

Kirk is collaborating with the people “I don’t trust…never have. Never will.” — the British intelligence services. To maintain his chosen lifestyle, always on the move and always on the prowl, waiting for that lovely day when he can retire to the Cayman Islands on his ill-gotten gains, Kirk is sometimes forced to cooperate with the law. In this case, if the bloody stump of sliced-off arm and an apparently worthless painting lying beside it in his freezer weren’t enough, there is the intriguing possibility of catching up with missing pieces of his past. Kirk believes that the man he is hunting can tell him something important about his father, an international art thief who died carrying secrets that continue to torment Kirk.

We know that the British can write spy thrillers. They may have invented the genre, beginning with one Bond. James Bond. Bond’s creator, a roué of the upper classes, had experience in spy-craft during World War II. And there’s John le Carre, author and former practitioner of the craft of espionage. THE BLACK SUN is the brain child of a new voice in the literary art of intrigue. James Twining is an Oxford graduate and international entrepreneur who has done his homework well, researching the treasures that Kirk and the bad guys are out to recoup, and cleverly connecting their factual history to fictional antagonists. The legendary Hungarian Gold Train and the remarkable lost Amber Room each plays a role.

When the arm is examined, Kirk and his Foreign Office minders find that a tattoo has been surgically removed from it. Assuming it to have been a concentration camp number, they reconstruct the markings. What they uncover is far more puzzling, and leads Kirk on the road to the inner sanctum of the Black Sun, the perverted Nazi cult of Camelot. Always dogging the trail of the elusive Renwick, who he believes holds the answers to the mystery of his own father, Kirk finds that the treasures stored up by the infamous cult reach far beyond the world of great artworks. Despite extreme and constant danger, Kirk is compelled to chase the demons of the past and confront them. As the beautiful Viktor tells him, “You’re angry, like me. I can see it in your eyes.”

THE BLACK SUN, the second in a series that started with THE DOUBLE EAGLE, spans two continents and two centuries. It has enough twists and switchbacks, grit, gore and glory to satisfy the hardcore thriller fan, and enough historical detail and cleverly conceived spy-craft to rope in the lovers of the intellectual espionage genre.
Bookreporter – January 2007

If you enjoyed James Twining’s action-packed art thriller “The Double Eagle”, you’re sure to get a similar charge from its sequel “The Black Sun”.

Private investigator Tom Kirk (a former art thief) and his partner (a former fence) look into an explosion of murders and robberies around the world that seem to be connected to the (true) story of the Hungarian Gold Train. The train was loaded with a fortune in gold and art stolen from Hungarian Jews and found in a remote Austrian tunnel by US troops at the end of World War II. Some of it was returned, but in Twining’s version enough of it was hidden around the world to make it all worth killing for 60 years later.
Chicago Tribune – December 2006

In London British MI6 operatives try to enlist the aid of former CIA Agent Tom Kirk in a nasty situation involving three brutal murder-robberies. Tom declines even as they describe the murders at a synagogue in Prague, at a hospital in London and a museum in Maryland. All were violent yet nothing of seeming value taken. What were stolen was a worthless 1940s painting, a Nazi camp survivor’s arm, and a WW II Enigma machine. This doesn’t make sense except for the war connection and the probable link to neo-Nazi supremacist group Kristall Blade.

Tom agrees to help when he learns that his enemy from his espionage days, Harry Renwick, is involved. Tom, accompanied by two friends, begins following clues on two continents in order to stop the Neo-Nazis and their allies from achieving their objective, which he knows involves six decades old lost gold and other treasures.

THE BLACK SUN is an exciting neo-Nazi thriller and sub-genre fans will enjoy following the exploits of introspective Tom and his cohorts. As with Kirk’s first novel, THE DOUBLE EAGLE, the fast-paced story line blends historical tidbits into a modern day mystery. Readers will enjoy James Twining’s tense tale.
Harriet Klausner – December 2007

“A gripping and suspenseful story that takes historical facts — the Hungarian Gold Train and Himmler’s SS — and weaves them into a modern-day hunt to find the secrets of the past. This is a can’t-put-down thriller.”
The Seattle Post Intelligencer – March 2007

British / RoI Reviews

“James Twining’s The Black Sun triumphantly proves that his impressive debut novel, The Double Eagle, was no fluke.

This second outing for his engaging protagonist Tom Kirk is actually more assured than the first one, and is proof that the gameplan created by the author for his character is spooling out very nicely indeed.

A whole year has passed since art thief Tom Kirk made a resolution to abjure his criminal activities. But -it goes without saying -he finds himself unable to entirely leave his old life behind. Three major art thefts occur, while in London a survivor of the death camps is killed in hospital. His murderers have removed a grisly relic from the crime scene: the dead man’s left arm. Soon, Kirk finds himself drawn into a mystifying (and highly dangerous) situation, with yet another element complicating the already labyrinthine plot: a gang has broken into the NSA museum and made off with a decoding machine.

Crime and thriller aficionados often play the game of defining those two genres, and while there are significant crimes in Twining’s highly entertaining novel, it’s the thriller format’s international dimension that adds an extra vigour, an element Twining exploits with the brio that marks out the very best thriller writers.

One senses a certain Dan Brown syndrome here (and that probably won’t do James Twining’s sales any harm), but he remains very much his own man, and if Brown has virtually hijacked certain thriller motifs, that’s no reason for other novelists not to utilise them -particularly when they are as well handled as they are in The Black Sun.” official review (Barry Forshaw) – April 06

A reformed thief searches for a long-hidden secret, a series of encrypted clues leading him from Czech synagogue to Swiss bank to Russian art gallery… Yes it’s all a bit Da Vinci code but Twining is a better writer than Brown, albeit a less ambitious one. He breaks no new ground here, but has produced a satisfying variation on the treasure-stolen-by-evil-Nazis formula that should keep the most jaded reader on their toes. The body count is high, with a couple of mutilation scenes thrown in to show us how bad these bad guys can be, and although the ending feels a little forced, this is a pacey well-constructed thriller with plenty of surprises and action.
What’s on in London – November 2006

“James Twining’s first novel, THE DOUBLE EAGLE, was an instant hit, and pretty soon achieved best-seller status with over 100,000 copies sold in the UK alone. THE BLACK SUN continues the adventures of Tom Kirk, only this time, Kirk’s working for the British Secret Service as they try to uncover the connection between a murdered SS officer and a number of stolen WWII paintings.

You won’t be disappointed – James is a master story-teller and this is a sensational follow-up to a classic first novel … This is straight out of a mould that begins with Boys’ Own Paper and continues to this day with cliffhanger chapter endings reminiscent of Saturday Morning cinema – a fantastic ride, a brilliant story … This will be another number one bestseller, and deservedly so.
Gateway Monthly – May 2006 (FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH)

“Three vicious robberies, with murder, cause officials to call in Tom Kirk, ex-CIA agent, ex-art thief, and his partner Archie Connolly, a former fence, to help find out what happened.

The arm of an Auschwitz survivor is severed while he is still alive in a hospital in London. The doctor and nurse who were watching on the CCTV are murdered and the tape taken, along with the arm. Meanwhile, at the NSA museum in Washington, a guard is brutally hanged from piano wire and an Enigma machine is stolen. Then, in the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, a painting by Karel Bellak is stolen, and children’s holocaust art is destroyed. Bellak is a minor amateur painter whose work is usually not much sought after. The Rabbi asks Tom Kirk to investigate and try to find who would desecrate a holocaust remembrance exhibit.

When he finds the painting, the severed left arm is also found with it. The juxtaposition is puzzling, but Kirk’s young assistant, Dominique de Lecourt, an inveterate puzzle solver, figures out the arm contains a code.

At the end of the war, a train of 29 cars, loaded with treasures from Hungary, was hidden by a group of diehard SS soldiers. Twenty-seven of the cars have been found, but it is thought that the two remaining cars hold a secret treasure that is worth more than any that has already been recovered. Tom and Archie search Europe for the treasure, and the road to finding the lost railroad cars is an exciting one.

Twining is among the best of the thriller writers around. He seems to be taking on the crown that Clive Cussler is slowly abdicating, if THE DOUBLE EAGLE and THE BLACK SUN are indications of his abilities. Oh, by the way, if you want to find out the meaning of the title, you’ll have to read the book.”
Reviewing the Evidence – February 06

“James Twining’s follow up to his bestseller, The Double Eagle, is an impressive novel that thriller lovers will find hard to put down.

The second adventure of the sometime art thief, Tom Kirk, starts off with a series of bangs – two murders, three thefts (one of which involves the gruesome severing of an arm) and the desecration of a holocaust remembrance exhibit in a Prague synagogue. When Kirk is asked to investigate the theft of a worthless painting by the Rabbi of the Synagogue, he’s soon entering a world that leads to Neo-Nazis, hidden wartime treasure and once again he’s duelling with arch enemy Cassius.

The style is very fluid and engaging, which allows the reader to keep pace with the many threads in the story. The action moves swiftly with well-crafted twists, turns and hooks. The choice of locations is impressive and memorable. As a former resident of Wapping, I enjoyed the scene in the Captain Kydd pub by the river Thames. For me, by far the most engaging character was Archie, former fence and Kirk’s partner. But there’s a formidable array of characters and they’ll all keep you guessing.

I’m already eagerly awaiting the next instalment in the adventures of Tom Kirk. Don’t keep us waiting too long James.”
Shotts Crime and Thriller Magazine (Dreda Say Mitchell) – April 06

“Tom Kirk is all you’d want in an anti-hero. Resourceful, daring and unafraid of facing up to demons (his own and others). Once a brilliant art thief, he’s now given up the night job and turned his not inconsiderable, if somehwhat dubious talents, to disentangling problems on the dark side of life. What do they say, set a thief to catch a thief?

Tom Kirk, the cracking new creation of author James Twining, returns in this second thriller from a writer surely destined to be one of our biggest success stories. This time out, Tom is called in to solve three seemingly random acts of thuggery across three different worlds.

An Auschwitz survivor is murdered in his London hospital bed. His killers sever and steal the man’s left arm. Across the Atlantic, thieves make off with a second world war Enigma machine and, in Prague, a minor painting is looted from a synagogue. Link those to a secret order of SS Kinights and you are en route to a real thriller.

A writer to watch? I think so.”
Huddersfield Weekly News – May 2006

Author James Twining will be well known to readers from his first novel, The Double Eagle, and on the heels of that thrilling read comes The Black Sun.

This could be described as a tale of three cities – London, Prague and Fort Meade, Maryland USA. The novel was inspired by the incredible true story of the Hungarian Gold Train and its desperate journey across a ravaged continent in the dying days of World War II.

An Auschwitz survivor is murdered in his hospital bed and the killer takes off with his left arm. In Maryland, a gang breaks into a museum and takes a Second World War Enigma machine, while in Prague, a worthless painting is stolen from a synagogue. But what’s the connection between all three? Enter former art thief Tom Kirk who digs deep into the past where clues have been laid down by a secret order of SS knights.

A thrilling read.
Cork Evening Echo – May 2006

“If you are going to have a conspiracy thriller, then you might as well go for the old Nazi Fourth Reich storyline – as long as it’s good. And boy, is James Twining good.

Starting with the macabre murder of an Auschwitz survivor in his hospital bed and finishing with an explosive confrontation between the forces of good and evil beneath an Austrian mountain, and taking in a secret order of SS kights and a fabulous treasure, Twining has produced a thriller which races along at breakneck speed. It combines murder with mystery and mysticism and has more twists and turns than a government spin doctor.

Dan Brown eat your heart out.”
The Northern Echo – April 2006

“Every good thriller needs a good baddie. And the more twisted and nefarious the plot, the more heroic our hero becomes when he does battle with evil.

In The Black Sun, Twining’s found the 20th Century’s shorthand for evil – the Nazi SS – who have apparently left clues to a treasure trove of stolen Jewish art and some ruthless killers want their share of the loot.

Enter reformed art thief Tom Kirk and you have all that’s needed for a tale of daring do.”
Nottingham Evening Post – April 2006

“The Black Sun is an enjoyable conspiracy thriller, mixing historical possibilities with fictional improbabilities to good effect.

Tom Kirk used to be the world’s leading art thief. Nowadays, he’s on the right side of the law – whenever possible.

In this, his second outing, he and his friends race around Europe trying to locate a fabled art treasure from World War II. They’ll need to keep moving if they’re to get there before assorted neonazis and unscrupulous art collectors – and, indeed, before being killed, if at all possible.”
The Morning Star – April 06

“Former art thief Tom Kirk makes a return in The Black Sun by James Twining.

Kirk investigates after an Auschwitz survivor is murdered in his hospital bed, his killers making off with a macabre trophy – his severed left arm. In Fort Mead, Maryland, a gang breaks into a museum and steals a second world war Enigma machine, lynching the guard who happens to cross their path. While in Prague, a mindless anti-Semitic attack on a Synagogue culminates in the theft of a seemingly worthless painting by a little known Czech artist. Something links them, but what and why?

The Black Sun has all the ingredients for a blockbuster – Nazis, hidden treasure, conspiracies and codes.”
York Evening Press – May 06

Australia / NZ Reviews

“Join the dots hidden in some old paintings to find clues to long-lost Nazi treasure and just hope the neo-Nazis, the FBI or Russian gangsters don’t get there first. Another in The Da Vinci Code genre, in which former art thief Tom Kirk and his associates whiz across Europe, sometimes ahead of the game, sometimes just behind it. They get there in the end, though, along with the bad guys, and the treasure is a bit of a surprise.”
The Daily Telegraph – Feb 06

“Death is not as fatal as it used to be. At the end of Twining’s last foray into the genteel world of international murder and mayhem, The Double Eagle, the identity of a big art crook called Cassius was disclosed…

… In The Black Sun, Twining takes us into the charming company of a group of former Nazis who think that the Third Reich might be worth another shot. But first they need to round up the artworks of a little-known Jewish painter, knock off the enigma machine and sever an arm from an old man. Kirk is now on the side of virtue; he is going to lock horns with Cassius.

Twining is a natural entertainer. If it wasn’t a bit over the top it would have been written by somebody else.”
The Sydney Morning Herald – Jan 2006

“A great read, this book had me engrossed from the start. The lead character Tom Kirk is a very likeable person and you soon find your self caught up in his world.

You don’t need to be a fan of war time thrillers or thrillers that relate back to the war to enjoy this book. It’s a fast ride with lots of plot twists and turns, but you never find yourself lost because the author’s writing style keeps you informed and involved during the whole journey.

I liked this so much that half-way though I went out and bought his other book, The Double Eagle, which is also turning into a great read!! I hope to see more books with the further tales of Tom Kirk soon.”
Parmenion Books – January 2006