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Sniper's Honor: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel par [Hunter, Stephen]
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Sniper’s Honor




It was a balmy November day in Stalingrad, 14 below, twelve feet of snow, near-blizzard conditions. Another twelve feet were expected soon and tomorrow would be colder. At the intersection of Tauvinskaya and Smarkandskaya streets, near the petrol tanks, not far from the Barrikady Factory, the boulevards were empty of pedestrian or vehicular traffic, though arms, legs, feet shod and unshod, hands gloved and ungloved, even a head or two stuck out of the caked white banks that lined them. A dead dog could be seen there, a dead old lady here. The sky was low and gray, threatening; columns of smoke rose from various energetic encounters in the northern suburb of Spartaskovna a few miles away. A ruined Sd. Kfz 251, painted frosty white for camouflage, lay on its side, its visible track sheared, a splatter of steel wheels all over the street. Its crew had either escaped or been long since devoured by feral dogs and rats. Farther down rusted away a T-34 without a turret, a relic of warmer months, as was presumably its crew. On either side of either street for blocks on end, the buildings had been reduced to devastation and resembled a maze, a secret puzzle of shattered brick, twisted steel, blackened wall, ruptured vehicle. In this labyrinth, small groups of men hunted each other and now and then would spring an ambush and a spasm of rifle or machine-gun fire would erupt, perhaps the blast of a Russian or German grenade. Occasionally a plane would roar overhead, a Sturmovik or a Stuka, like a predator bird looking for something to kill and eat.

But for now, the intersection was quiet, though a riot of snow-flakes floated downward, swirling in the wind, covering bloodstains, human entrails, fecal deposits, muffling the screams of men who’d lost legs or testicles, the whole panopoly of total, bitter war fought at very close quarters in frozen conditions, under a gossamer surface of silky frost.

One man, however, was quite warm and comfortable. He was prone-positioned in what had been Apartment 32, 27 Smarkandskaya Street, a model Soviet worker’s building, which now had no roof and few walls. He lay belly-down on three blankets, under three blankets. His face was smeared with zinc ointment as a protection against frostbite, his hands were twice gloved, a white hood engulfed most of his head, and a scarf sheathed his mouth and nose, so that only the eyes, dark behind snow goggles, were visible. Best of all, every half an hour, a private would slither up the stairs and slip a hot water bottle under the blankets, its contents freshly charged from a boiling pot two flights below.

The prone man was named Gunther Ramke and he was a feldwebel, a sergeant, in the 3rd Battalion of the Second Regiment of the 44th Infantry Division in XI Corps in the Sixth Army under Paulus, facing the 13th Guards Rifle Division of the Soviet 62nd Army under Zhukov as the heavy fighting of Operation Uranus echoed in the distance. Zhukov was trying desperately to encircle Paulus as a preliminary to destroying him and his three hundred thousand colleagues. None of that mattered to Feldwebel Ramke, who had no imagination for any kind of pictures save the one he saw through his Hensoldt Dialytan four-power telescopic sight, set in a claw mount on his Mauser K98k.

He was a sniper, he was hunting a sniper. That was all.

The Russian had moved in a few weeks ago, a very talented stalker and shooter, and already had eliminated seven men, two of them SS officers. It was thought that the fellow had worked the Barrikady Factory zone before that, and possibly Memomova Hill. He liked to kill SS. It wasn’t that Ramke had any particular investment in the SS, which struck him as ridiculous (he was farm-raised and thought the black costumes were something for the stage or cinema; additionally, he knew nothing of politics except that the Fatherland had been starved into submission in ’18, then gotten screwed in the Treaty of Versailles), but he was a good soldier, an excellent shot (twenty-nine kills), and he had an assignment and meant to bring it off. It would keep his captain happy, and life was better for everyone in the company, as in all armies that have ever existed anywhere in the world at any time, if the captain was happy.

He knew this game was of a dimension he had not yet encountered. Normally you stalk, you slither, you pop up or dip down, and sooner or later a fellow with a Mosin-Nagant or a Red tommy gun comes your way, you settle into position, hold your breath, steady the weapon on bones not muscles, watch the crosshair ooze toward center body, and squeeze. The fellow staggers and falls; or he steps back and falls; or he simply falls; but it always ends in the fall. Plop, to the ground, raising dust or snow, followed by the eternal stillness known only to the dead.

But the character on the other side of the street was too good. So the new rules were, you never moved. You emulated the recently deceased. You never looked up or about. Your field of vision was your battlefield, and it covered about thirty feet at 250 meters. You stayed disciplined. The rifle was loaded and cocked so there was no ritual of bolt throw, with its bobbing head and flying elbows, either of which could get you killed. The name of this game was patience. The opponent would come to you. It was a question of waiting. Thus, Gunther was perfectly constituted for the job, being barely literate and lacking any ability to project himself in time or space. He was the ideal sniper: what was, was; he had no need for speculation, delusion, curiosity, or fantasy.

He was set up to cover the fifth and sixth floors of a much-battered apartment building across the street and the traffic circle that marked the intersection, with the knees of a statue of someone once important to the Russians still standing on a pedestal. If the enemy sniper was in that tightly circumscribed universe, Gunther would make the kill. If he was a floor lower or higher, or a window to the left or right, they’d never encounter each other. Tricky business. Wait, wait, wait.

And finally the ordeal seemed to be paying off. He was convinced that within the darkness of the rear of the apartment whose interior was defined by his sight picture lay a patch more intense and more shaped than had been there in previous hours. He convinced himself he saw movement. He just wasn’t quite sure, and if he fired and hit nothing, he would give this position up, and he’d have to start anew tomorrow.

He didn’t want to stare too hard through the glass. Eyestrain and fatigue led to hallucinatory visions, and if he let himself, he’d see Joe Stalin sitting in there, eating a plate of sardines and wiping his filthy peasant hands on his tunic. Realizing this as a trap, he closed his eyes every few seconds for some rest, so that he cut down on the pressure. But each time he opened them, he was certain there was a new shape in the shadow. It could have been a samovar on the floor, or the frame of a chair that lost a fight with a mortar round, or even the body of the occupant, but it also could have been a man in prone, hunched similarly over a weapon, eye pressed similarly to the scope. It didn’t help that discriminations were made more difficult by reason of an occasional sunbeam that would break through the clouds and throw a shaft of illumination into the room just above the suspected enemy. When this happened, it broke Gunther’s concentration and ruined his vision, and he had to blink and look away and wait until the condition passed.

But Gunther felt safe. The Ivan snipers used a 3.5-power optic called a PU, which meant that even if his enemy were on him, the details would be so blurry that no sight picture could be made, not at 250 meters, which was about as far as the Mosin-Nagant with that scope was good for. So he felt invisible, even a little godlike. His higher degree of magnification gave him enough advantage.

He would wait a little while longer. That low sun would disappear and full dark would come. Both opponents, if there was another opponent, would wait until that happened and then gradually disengage and come back to fight tomorrow. But Gunther had decided to shoot. He’d been on this stand a week, and he convinced himself that he was seeing something new, having moved in at about three in the afternoon, and it could only be—

He closed his eyes. He counted to sixty.

“Not much time left, Gunther,” came the call from his Landser, leaning out of the stairwell behind him. “Need more hot water?”

“Shhh!” said Gunther.

“You’re going to shoot! Maybe we can get out of here early!”

Then the soldier disappeared, knowing further distraction was to nobody’s advantage. Gunther, meanwhile, prepared to fire. He carefully assembled his position behind the rifle, working methodically from toes to head, locking joints, finding angles for his limbs, making nuanced adjustments, building bone trusses under the seven-pound 7.92mm rifle resting on a sandbag, pushing the safety off, sliding his trigger finger out of the sheathing of the two gloves via a slot he’d cut in each. He felt the trigger’s coldness, felt his fingertip engage it, felt it move back, stacking slightly as it went, until it finally reached the precise edge between firing and not firing. At this point he committed fully by opening his eyes to acquire the picture through the glass of the Hensoldt Dialytan, four times larger than life, and settled the intersection of the crosswires on its center. He exhaled half his breath, put his weight against the trigger, feeling it just about to break, and then saw the flash.

The round hit him on a slightly downward angle at the midpoint of his right shoulder, breaking a whole network of bones, though missing any major arteries or blood-bearing organs. It was not fatal. In fact, it saved his life; his shoulder was so ruinously damaged that he was evacuated from Stalingrad that night, one of the last to escape the Cauldron, as it came to be called, full of Paulus’s unhappy men. Gunther lived to be eighty-nine years old, dying prosperous and well attended by grandchildren on his farm in Bavaria.

However, at the point of impact it felt like someone had unloaded a full-swing ten-kilo sledgeweight against him, lifting him, twisting him, depositing him. He was aware that he had fired in reaction to the trauma but knew full well that the shot, jerked and spastic, had no chance of reaching the target.

Dazzled by the shock, he recovered quickly and tried to cock the rifle but found of course that the arm attached to the now-destroyed shoulder no longer worked. Still, on instinct, his face returned to the stock, his eye returned to the scope, and it so happened that his opponent, having delivered the shot, had risen to depart just as one of those errant sunbeams pierced the interior of the room. As the figure rose and turned, the hood fell away and Gunther saw a cascade of yellow hair, bright as gold, reflect in the sunlight. Then the sniper was gone.

Men raced to him, tourniquets were supplied and applied, a stretcher was brought, but Gunther said to anybody who would listen, “Die weisse Hexe!”

The White Witch!

Revue de presse

“Absorbing . . . You don’t have to be a fan of military action fiction to enjoy this.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Hunter knows his hero like a brother: righteous character firmly set, crafty intelligence thoroughly hidden, stone-cold willing to take the shot if a bad actor must die. . . . Swagger displays mighty tradecraft [and] Hunter loads up a whole magazine of action, double-dealing and gun porn.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A remarkably textured novel. . . . Hunter does a wonderful job of jumping between and connecting his multiple story lines, and he peoples the stage with at least a dozen memorable characters, from Mili and her cohorts through the Nazis that hunt them, and, of course, to Swagger himself, an ever-more-complex character as he ages. Perhaps most memorable of all, though, is Hunter’s vivid re-creation of the carnage on the Eastern Front, where, as Mili notes, the Russians’ only advantage over the Germans was numbers: ‘If they kill us five to one, we bring six to one . . . we shall prevail because, all things being equal, we can outbleed them.’” (Booklist)

“Given the return of the Russians to bad-guy status, this book couldn’t be more timely. But any Swagger tale is a treat, especially one as layered and nuanced as this one. Hunter remains the absolute master of the action thriller and this is a terrific tale from a wondrous storyteller.” (Providence Sunday Journal)

“My favorite thriller author […] fun to read.” (The Herald-Dispatch)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
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  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 465 pages
  • Editeur : Simon & Schuster; Édition : Reissue (20 mai 2014)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.3 étoiles sur 5 974 commentaires
68 internautes sur 71 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 SNIPER'S HONOR - "the war was hungry" 24 mai 2014
Par dch822 - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
A quick note: I'm writing this review from the perspective of a Stephen Hunter fan and someone who has read all the books in the Bob Lee Swagger series.

For readers already familiar with Bob Lee Swagger's violent gun world I'd rate this book on par with I, SNIPER or THE THIRD BULLET, far better than NIGHT OF THUNDER or THE 47th SAMURAI, but not as good as the old classics POINT OF IMPACT or TIME TO HUNT.

In other words, among Hunter's recent books it's a very good read. If you've never read a Bob Lee Swagger book that's okay - there's no need for having done so in order to enjoy this book.

About the plot: Swagger is bored and grumpy, as usual, prompting his wife to suggest he needs to "find a new war" to fight. And of course he does just that after receiving an email from Kathy Reilly, an American reporter in Russia who teamed up with Swagger in an earlier adventure in Russia. Reilly is writing a story about a Russian female sniper whose legendary war record against the Germans has mysteriously been erased from seemingly all official accounting of World War II.

Swagger flies to Russia and begins assisting Reilly in her research, and soon enough everything "goes to guns" as he is fond of saying ... but that's okay, because we all know Swagger lives for these moments.

So here's what I really liked about this book:

MILI PETROVA - she's the sniper, and her character is written beautifully. The book weaves the story of her final wartime mission in 1944 with Swagger's dogged present-day pursuit to find out what happened to her. I kept turning the pages because I was immersed in her story and wanted to find out what happened to her.

THE TEACHER, PEASANT and VON DREHLE - one Russian, one Ukrainian and one German ... Swagger laments the lack of heroes in his search for the truth about Petrova, but ultimately we find that heroes abound and they come in the form of three superbly nuanced characters whose varied perspectives adds immeasurable depth to the story.

THE PACING - it's a fast read, with events racing seamlessly from the past to the present; and as the story progresses we meet an enigmatic Mossad analyst in Israel and a soon-to-be appointed trade minister in Russia whose stories bring into focus how events in the past still have repercussions in the present.

THE THEME - yes, it actually has one beyond seeing how many guys Swagger can outsmart and gun down ... or at least I think it does. It's actually a ... love story. No kidding. Swagger's in love with this female sniper from the past, but really that's a pretext for showing the bond between soldiers past, present and future. You see the Sniper's Honor (now I understand why the original She, Sniper title was changed...) is Petrova's commitment to serving her country regardless of the corrupt officials running it; it's her commitment to her fellow soldier's she's defending; it's the way she honors the memory of her family by her perseverance; and it's her willingness to complete a mission even after she's been betrayed, sent to die, and left with no hope for a future even if she's successful; but beyond all that, it's Swagger's own perseverance to honor this heroic female sniper by assuring her story is never completely erased.

A few things that might annoy some readers:

Look, it's fiction - we all need to check our disbelief at the door and just accept that Swagger is one bad dude and really is capable of deducing what happened in a gun battle seventy years in the past by noticing the color of present-day tree branches on a hillside in the Carpathian mountains ... and if you're not good at suspending disbelief, then my guess is you'd have a hard time enjoying this or similar books in this genre.

However ... (trying not to write any spoilers here) there are two specific incidents of this where I believe the author really took a risk that might distract some readers to the point of irritation.

The first is the idea that Petrova was betrayed yet somehow she's the only person outside of the bad guys who is capable of deducing not only that she was betrayed but also who it was that betrayed her. That really just doesn't make sense - especially when Swagger can figure it out in one afternoon without any of the knowledge the Russians had seventy years ago; and when the motive for the betrayal is discovered by Swagger, it's something that absolutely there's no way the Russian spymasters would have missed in 1944. The reason this is so annoying is that protecting the person who betrayed Petrova is a critical link from the past events to the attempts on Swagger's and Reilly's lives in the present day.

The second is probably worse ... and that's when you find out who it is trying to kill Swagger. Won't write a spoiler, but I honestly felt the story would have been much better if Hunter had just gone with the most obvious group rather than trying to stun and surprise the readers with the big reveal that's followed by an impassioned speech about duty and honor by Swagger that pretty much falls flat because of who it is he's talking with.

I don't know ... I still enjoyed the book very much.

There are some very poignant moments during the war scenes - in particular, when Swagger describes the violence by writing "the war was hungry." In a lot of ways, I felt Hunter was crafting the story as he did with the intent of honoring soldier's past and present - be it intentional or not, he certainly succeeded.

My overall rating is 4 out of 5 stars, again that's coming from someone who has very high expectations when reading Stephen Hunter - and especially when it's a new Bob Lee Swagger novel.
21 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Swagger takes a long look at the sniper war on the Eastern Front 28 mai 2014
Par Daniel Berger - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
There's a lot I like about this book. The sniper war on the Eastern Front is a great place to insert Swagger - Hunter's sniper series would be incomplete without it. The woman-sniper angle is also irresistible as a subject. I liked the main character, a gorgeous woman sniper sent to a Ukraine partisan group to take out an SS leader. I liked the evil technocratic SS leader Groedl and his Muslim deputy Salid, a Jew-hating cousin of the Grand Mufti, a movie-star handsome Palestinian Arab who is expert in fine wine even though he doesn't drink. I liked the noble German paratroop leader Von Drehle and his sergeant and sidekick Wili, veterans of countless actions, deliverers of the best buddy-film banter, and now detailed to blow a key pass slowing the Russian advance.

I liked the surprise insertion of one of Hunter's best characters, who crosses paths with Earl Swagger in "Havana". I liked the allusion to "The Dirty Dozen" in the final action sequence, where Swagger gets to emulate Jim Brown's notable grenade-dropping run, and to the opening line from "Gravity's Rainbow": "A screaming comes across the sky" - this time not about German V2 rockets, but Russian Katyushas.

The plot was clever, if unlikely, as most Swagger novels are, both sniper Mili Petrova being sent to the Carpathian mountains, the plot behind the mission, and the tie to a current-day terror plot sniffed out by a Mossad analyst who's the Swagger of numbers-crunchers, as it were.

The setting lets Hunter explore lots of different aspects of World War II, particularly on the not-written-enough-about-in-English Eastern Front. There's the whole Soviet woman sniper thing and World War II era sniping in general. There is the legendary tank battle at Kursk, which I often hear alluded to but have never read an actual description of.

There is the German retreat during 1944, after Stalingrad, as the Russians push the Germans steadily back to the west, and the German plans to fall back out of the Soviet Union across the redoubt of the Carpathian mountains.

There is the role of the partisans, and the uncertain status of the Ukrainians, who when they resist the Nazis are suspected of planning same against the Communists postwar.

There is the Holocaust in the Soviet Union and the hideous reprisals against the occupied population in general.. There's the use of Muslim SS battalions from places like Yugoslavia. There's the SS focus on their genocidal killing even as the Germans are in full retreat and losing the war.

I like the fact that Petrova being a woman doesn't figure much in the plot, either the reason she's sent on the mission or the nefarious motive lurking behind it. The Soviet woman snipers were major contributors to the war effort, sent out to do the same work as the men and doing it just as well. Swagger is taken by her legend because she was a sniper - a real good one

I like the completely unlikely fairy tale ending.

There are things I don't like, though. It was unclear to me how the modern-day bad guy is taken out at the end. Hunter cannot seem to keep Swagger's wife's name straight: in "Night of Thunder" it was Julie (she had a major role in that one, which was why I checked it for comparison), but now it's Jen. I don't like that the Russian SVR is referred to at one point as the SRV, and no one caught it.

And - this is incredibly sloppy - there's a major scene in which a character is killed off, only to reappear unscathed some chapters later. I kept thinking I'd missed something, and reread passages several times, but no. This isn't a review copy I was reading, with occasional errors to be later corrected before publication; this was the final published version, for which I paid cash money.

Hunter has acknowledged and joked about massive continuity problems and inconsistencies in his series (his ballistics, on the other hand, being recognized as detailed and accurate down to the last thousandth of an inch), but this was an egregious error by any measure. He really should do better. I'm docking him a star for that.
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Everything I Ever Wanted In A Historic Thriller 30 mai 2014
Par Roger F, Shepherd - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle
Stephen Hunter bagged me with his first book THE MASTER SNIPER a long time ago. I have read every thing he has written since. I can't remember how many times I've seen THE SHOOTER. But this book had every thing I ever wanted in a novel. My hero, Bob Lee Swagger, Not one but two nasty antagonists ( the Germans and The Russians), World War II,The Carpathian Mountains in Ukrane, A beautiful female sniper, "Mili" Petrova, and a modern terrorist sub-plot spawned by the war.

No sense in rehashing the contents of the book. The editorial reviews and descriptions give a pretty good outline. So I will focus on why I believe this book to be one of Hunter's best efforts. FIRST: the subject matter. The mystery of what happened to one of Russia's 4,000 female snipers is intriguing.
Hunter had his friend in Moscow, a reporter, Kathy Reilly do some research on Ludmilla Petrova because nothing was known about her after she was sent to Ukrane in 1944. What became of "Mili?"

Next, Who was the double agent known only to "Mili" who wanted her killed because she knew his secret?

And in modern times Why was a company Named Nordyne buying up large quantities of PLATINUM , refining it and getting ready to ship it to the middle east?

Hunter, as always, solves a shooting problem by coming up with a rare weapon that becomes available to the perfect sniper at just the right time and place. His research is impeccable. All the weapons, tanks, aircraft, trucks, uniforms, autos, communications equipment and even wine (years, labels,taste)
and fish were described in serious detail.

The characters are developed, given accurate dialogue, dressed according to the scene, and came easily to my imagination. The horrors of war- especially tank and flamethrower casualties are described to the cringing point. Atrocities from both armies are revealed.. War isn't pretty. We get the picture.

Were the mysteries solved? Did our heroes survive? Reading is the fun part. Once you start you may have to change your plans for the next few hours. This is one of those kind of books--the kind I love.

Reviewed by Roger Shepherd
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Hunter, please reconsider 26 décembre 2014
Par voraciousreader - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Most authors who have a character in a series sooner or later run out of new ideas, or the character just grows too old. So in the final book, the author has an important choice to make. In this case, to end a great Swagger series, with a great book, by keeping the character of Swagger true to himself and us readers, or just cash in. I would hope Hunter attempts one more book that can revise Swagger back to a great American, and then end this series. Because in Sniper's Honor, Swagger puts the journalist Reilley's needs in production of newspaper stories, over the interest of the USA. Swagger does this without knowing what's going on behind the scenes at the time. Then, of course, Swagger's dishonor proves to be honorable when we find out what truly was going on.

Finally, I'd rather see Swagger go down in a gunfight than go down the way he did in Sniper's Honor. I also rate all other Hunter Swagger series books with four or five stars.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 For one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death. Gita 28 juillet 2014
Par michael a. draper - Publié sur
Format: Relié
It didn't take me long to know I'd be hooked by this excellent adventure story. I just closed my eyes and imagined Clint Eastwood in the role of Bob Lee Swagger.

Swagger is retired and he's contacted by his friend, reporter, Kathy Reilly. She's doing a story on a forgotten Russian Sniper from WWII and wants Swagger's help.

The woman's name is Mili Petrova and she's called the White Witch. In alternating chapters we read of her adventures in 1944 and then Swagger and Reilly researching Mili's history.

Mili's first adventure that we see is when she's in a waiting game with a German sniper at Stalingrad. She wins this battle and her next assignment is in Ukraine where she's ordered to kill the leading German official. This man has sent many Jews to their deaths and Mili is on a deadline since the Russian Army advance is set to begin in Ukraine and the Germans will be retreating.

Swagger and Reilly examine the history and observe that Mili must have been betrayed soon after her arrival in Ukraine. However, she escapes a trap and continues with her mission.

Swagger and Reilly come into difficulties of their own as a group of American mercenaries warn them to leave and forget about Petrova. Of course, this only makes them more interested to learn of why Petrova was never heard from after this assignment.

The excitement mounts as a member of the Mossad learns that something is being made from a mineral found in Ukraine, this element was made into a gas that killed millions of Jews.

There are a number of very interesting characters who the reader can sympathise with, the leading person for this is the leader of a German Parachute Battalion stationed in Ukraine.

I enjoyed the novel but found one editing mistake where a friend of Swagger's is referred to as JT in one part of the story and JF in another. Otherwise, the story was excellent and I can't wait for Swagger's next adventure.
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