Just like the Cold War launched a thousand spy novels (and taught generations that people named Boris are always the villain), the war against terrorism has become the new muse for the wannabe Forsyths of the world. The Taliban, predictably, is the whipping boy in Abhisar Sharma's The Edge of the Machete. Leading the way is Aamir Sherzai, a rising star in the extremist ranks. Like all good villains, Sherzai likes to torture and decapitate, and his execution of a CIA agent is the tipping point for things to go pear-shaped in this well-plotted espionage story. Agent Ed Gomez, the resident Jack Bauer for this story, sounds very much like every square-jawed, wooden-faced Hollywood action hero you've ever encountered. To the author's credit, he handles this firmly clichéd setting with great enthusiasm, never letting the pace of the story slip. If you're willing to overlook the mostly quotidian prose and the few caricatures every now and then, there's no reason why this can't be a good read while travelling.