Book review: Spy Out The Land Â byÂ Jeremy Duns
A former MI6 spy now unmasked as a British traitor, Paul Dark should be a dead man'¦
But surviving a ruthless and daring attempt on his life is no guarantee that the once high-ranking intelligence officer will have a free run.
Jeremy Duns has been garnering praise and wide critical acclaim since Free Agent, the first of his exciting, authentic and extensively researched Paul Dark books, was published in 2009.
His subsequent novels in the series, Song of Treason and The Moscow Option, have made him one of the most sought-after and admired spy thriller writers, and cult reading for those fascinated by some of the murkier corners of 20th century history.
In a return to the perilous, precarious world of rogue agent Dark in 1969, we are taken on a gripping, action-packed rollercoaster ride from a desolate Finnish island to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, through Europe and on to Africa and a landmark political meeting at the Victoria Falls in Zambia in 1975.
In the autumn of 1969, Paul Dark only escaped death from a Soviet assassin’s bullet because a Finnish lighthouse-keeper dragged him from the sea and helped to save his life.
Back at MI6 headquarters in London, the spy who went on the run earlier that year after being branded a traitor is officially filed as ‘dead’ but 24-year-old Rachel Gold, one of the service’s youngest intelligence officers, is not convinced.
Six years later, a summit is arranged between the Rhodesian government and various nationalist leaders, and is due to take place in railway dining car 49, midway along Victoria Falls Bridge.
The meeting will be attended by all sides in the civil war that is tearing white Rhodesia apart but Matthew Charamba, a key player in the battle for majority rule in the country, is hiding a deadly secret.
Meanwhile, Dark is living a new life in Stockholm as Erik, husband of Claire and father of Ben. But their quiet existence is about to unravel in dramatic fashion. Each have hidden pasts, to which the other is oblivious, and those pasts have come back to find them.
When his family is kidnapped, Dark, once feared as a dangerous double-agent, is forced to come out of hiding and take action but hot on the trail and heading for their final destination is Rachel Gold and this time she is determined to reel him in.
The key to Duns’ success is his ability to pen high-energy, enthralling action sequences allied to an impressive attention to detail, transforming the traditional spy classic into a compelling mirror of real-life history and politics.
The portrayal of the ruthlessness, double-dealing and cynicism of Cold War era politics – on all sides of the divide – and the machinations over the vicious end of white rule in Rhodesia is breathtaking in its veracity and power.
In Paul Dark, we have a clever and resourceful spy unafraid of danger and prepared to gamble all and risk his life in an effort to save those he loves. Up against him is an ambitious, intelligent woman, equally capable and equally unyielding in the pursuit of her quarry.
An explosive finale is assured, a finale that no dedicated spy thriller fan would want to miss!
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)