Book Review / Douglas Reeman / Technology / World War II

Twelve Seconds to Live, by Douglas Reeman

This is a slightly different Douglas Reeman novel than the rest – it deals very little with the Royal Navy in the conventional sense, but rather with a little group of people in a special force that was assigned the task of defusing or otherwise dealing with mines in England during World War II.

Defusing mines, especially the really treacherous ones, requires highly specialized skills as well as good nerves and very steady hands. If the mine goes active any time during the process, for whichever reason, you hear a quiet whirr. That whirr means you have only twelve seconds to live.

Twelve Seconds to Live tells some of the stories of that select and largely invisible group of heroes that defused mines dropped over England, in some cases hitting private homes or other random places onshore. We meet Lieutenant-Commander David Masters and others in Special Countermeasures, who defused such beasts and, as well, taught this deadly science to others. The job required a lot of courage, and the mortality rate was very high.

This is an interesting and to some extent exciting thriller about the ongoing battle between man and machine. In my opinion, Twelve Seconds to Live is not among the best books Douglas Reeman has written, but the theme is very interesting and I found I liked the book even though it perhaps is not as well structured as some of his best books.