Saturday, 20 September 2014

A Foreign Country - Charles Cumming


I've been keeping an eye out for Cumming's work since he won the CWA Steel Dagger, and the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Book of the Year for this very novel in 2012.

As I have stated several times on this blog, spy fiction is not my first choice and I can only tolerate the very best.  Fortunately, Cumming is up there with the very best.  Much more literate than Fleming and not as tendentious as le Carre can sometimes be.

The storyline here is unrolled through a number of clever twists, none of which strain the credulity.  Essentially, it is this: the incoming female head of MI6 vanishes; Thomas Kell, the spy who was effectively thrown into the cold, is given the off-the-books task of tracking her down with the vague promise of reinstatement if successful.  This means we don't have to endure too much office in-fighting and can get down to the chase through Tunisia and France.

The plot deepens, the target changes more than once, and the pace never once relents.  Cumming has stripped down the backstory of his characters to the bare minimum needed to engage our empathy.  Thus he can devote all his authorial energy to making his thriller thrilling.  He succeeds.

I am definitely up for more.  The Trinity Six sounds intriguing...

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