Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A Colder War - Charles Cumming

Cumming first came to prominence with A Foreign Country, which won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller of the year and the Bloody Scotland crime book of the year, both in 2012.  The protagonist of that book, the forty-something disgraced SIS operative Thomas Kell, returns in A Colder War.



The premise is similar.  Still under investigation for his role in unlawful rendition and torture Kell is called back to action by the misfortune of an old friend and colleague, in this instance Paul Wallinger, chief British spy in Ankara, is killed in a dubious flying 'accident' immediately after a high profile operation he was running with the Americans goes spectacularly tits-up.

It's a mole-hunt with the personal undertones - Kell becomes passionately involved with Wallinger's daughter, and she becomes unexpectedly involved with the mole-hunt.  We know who the mole is fairly early in proceedings but Cumming is nevertheless able to maintain the suspense levels to the very end.  He has, in many ways, taken up the spy world where John le Carre left it.  Kell is not entirely dissimilar to George Smiley, though he does have a much more active personal life.  Cumming is now a major player in the genre.  I look forward to Kell's next appearance.  In the meantime I must try one of Cumming's standalone novels, perhaps the first, A Spy by Nature.

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