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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review - Games Traitors Play

The cover got my attention with "the perfect post-Bond spy...move over, Jason Bourne" along with some reviews comparing this to John le CarrĂ©'s style.  Find out if I felt this novel and its spy live up to the hype.

Author: Jon Stock

Copyright: March 2012 (Thomas Dunne Books) 384 pgs

Series: 2nd in Daniel Marchant Thriller

Sensuality: mild, some adult references and innuendo

Mystery Sub-genre: Thriller

Main Characters: Daniel Marchant, British MI6 Agent

Setting: Modern day, London and Marrakesh

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Daniel Marchant is undercover in Marrakesh to get a lead on Salim Dhar, who is the world's most wanted terrorist since he narrowly missed killing the U.S. president.   the CIA is under pressure to hunt Salim  down and they don't like Marchant on the case.  Daniel Marchant, is a half brother of Salim and has the best chance of connecting with him, and maybe recruiting him to work for British intelligence.

It seems that Salim has partnering with Soviet intelligence to strike a blow against the West.  In order to discover the truth, Marchant must allow himself to be recruited by Moscow with a promise of getting time with Salim. It's a role that will require him to play up his late father as traitor, an allegation that he fought long and hard to contradict. But now he must revive those old rumors and play a game of double or even triple crosses.

Daniel Marchant is an anti-hero who is conflicted with his family legacy.  Although his father was Chief of MI6, he was widely suspected of being a KGB spy, and Daniel's recently discovered muslim half-brother from his father's affair is a terrorist.  As a main character I had a hard time relating to him on even a basic level.  For a spy he seemed to be stumbling through the entire story and I just didn't like him much.  Daniel's boss is MI6 chief Marcus Fielding, a cold and calculating puppet-master trying to put Britain on top of the spy game at any cost.  James Spiro, CIA Head of Clandestine Operations in Europe is a grade "A" donkey's behind and at times the U.S. has a less than pristine reputation because of Spiro.  Apparently, Spiro was behind a kidnapping and water-boarding of Daniel in the previous book.  One of Spiro's agents, Lakshmi Meena, is sent to Marrakesh to follow Daniel.  Lakshmi could have been a great character but ended up just being a pawn of the men in charge.  Her sole existence in the story is to be said pawn and doesn't seem to really have any meaning of her own.

The best setting descriptions are in Marrakesh and the surrounding Atlas Mountains.  The low tech method of communication Salim Dhar uses is the Berber storytellers, and this really helped in also bringing the location to life.  Even the Atlas Mountains seemed rich, but the British locales seemed flat in comparison.

The plot is not too far of a reach, but I would not classify it as a thriller (intrigue and suspense maybe).  It relies heavily on the unknown.  Was Daniel's father really a KGB spy rather than a strategic conduit for low level intel in exchange for a fat-cat KGB spy feeding Britain intel?  Can Daniel turn Salim Dhar, or will Salim turn Daniel in the end?  It was slow in several spots and it wasn't until the last third of the book that things started to keep my attention.  

The climax had some tense moments making it suspenseful.  The wrap-up was a bit abrupt but paves the way for more spy games with Daniel and his half brother still in the game.  And as I have stated, Lakshmi is a convenient pawn, even in the wrap-up.

It is a good suspenseful espionage novel that utilizes the rivalry between British and American intelligence agencies well, but I don't agree with the comparisons to Jason Bourne or John le CarrĂ©'s style.  

Ratings:  Good - A fun read with some flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.

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