This book is a sequel to Cold Blood, which I hadn’t read. That meant I had little understanding about why the main character, Nick Stone, and his team were being hunted by the mysterious “Owl” and what intelligence they were hiding as leverage to keep themselves safe.
In my view, the editor of this book should have aggressively trimmed the preliminary material and jumped straight to the subject of this novel. That concerned a team of Soviet spies intent on intercepting digital information following through Cornwall, England, into the rest of Europe. Nick and his team are tasked with kidnapping Yulia, a key hacker in the Soviet team. They also need to take revenge on cyber criminals who stole thousands of pounds from Jack, one of their own team.
The sub-title of this book is “Secret diaries of a Junior Doctor”, because Adam Kay was for some years a doctor in the National Health Service. His stories are often hilarious but they also reveal just what stress the doctors and the NHS as a whole are under. He had a successful career as a doctor, including several promotions – but ultimately, the crazy demands of the job took its toll on his well-being as well as his relationships and he had to leave.
Suppose intelligence discovered that a terrorist organisation was planning a fresh atrocity that would shock the world, but had no further leads to prevent it. Then it might be appropriate to take the longest of shots – send an agent into Iraq to infiltrate that organisation at a senior level, in the hope that the secret is shared with him.
So it happens that Mike Martin, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is sent to impersonate The Afghan (Izmat Khan), a war hero supposedly returned from prison in Guantanamo. He is accepted as a member of the Taliban, thanks to his genuine background from growing up in the region and intensive coaching on the religion and customs of the area. But the real mission is to learn about the planned atrocity and to intervene.
It’s a clever plot, if necessarily far fetched – I’d read the book some years ago and it was good on re-reading.
This book is set in the early days of the space race. Scientists have assessed the risk of previously unknown organisms being released on Earth (either alien bacteria brought back to Earth by rockets or Earth-bound organisms changed by exposure to the environment of space). The result is Wildfire – an underground facility with multiple levels of increasing levels of sterilisation, in which the scientists would research any such contaminated material.
The plot is that a satellite has indeed brought back some terrible disease that has killed many people in the vicinity by solidifying their blood. This include two soldiers sent to retrieve the satellite – but there are two survivors, a baby and an old man. The scientists are summoned to the Wildfire bunker to investigate the nature of the disease and the book tells the story of their tests and endeavours as if from a retrospective.
Reviews of this book frequently admit that the reader was convinced that the story was true – I had that impression too, particularly given the fake acknowledgements to those ‘who encouraged me to tell the story accurately and in detail’ at the start of the book and the heavily academic bibliography at the end.
I was given a lovely hardback edition of this book for my birthday. Whilst this book stands alone, I’m sure I miss much of the sentiment portrayed by the lead character, Peter Guillaume, because I haven’t read any of the George Smiley series before.
There are two main storylines. In the present day, Guillaume is interrogated by the British Secret Service as to his role in Windfall, a cold war operation. The Service is being sued for negligence by descendants of two dead agents – Guillaume is still liable even decades after the event. In the past, we follow Guillaume’s life as an agent from his recruitment through to working with his best friend Alec and the resulting fiasco that took Alec’s life.
The story is beautifully told and reveals its secrets piece-by-piece as if we’re viewing it through a fuzzy lens – perhaps as the cold war agents would have discovered the information themselves.
This book follows the same template as the other Lost Fleet books that I’ve read. We travel with Captain “Black Jack” Geary on Dauntless, the flag ship of his fleet, as he attempts to steer his people home after a damaging series of battles. This episode is more optimistic, the fleet is performing well in battle and Geary’s efforts to bring a humane change in culture to the personnel is succeeding (they rescue stranded enemy civilians who had been abandoned on an outpost planet). However, he still faces the growing threat of hidden enemies within the leadership who are still trying to overthrow him. Geary confronts the fact that he cannot continue to court Co-President Victoria Rione now that his growing feelings for Captain Tanya Desjani are obvious to everyone in his crew.
I really enjoyed the first in David Baldacci’s Amos Decker series, so was looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at the same level – a completely implausible plot, combining industrial espionage with an international spy ring, terrorism and family betrayal.