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Gerald Seymour, Traitor’s Kiss (2003)

01 Oct

There is a review by Patrick Anderson in The Washington Post.

Gerald Seymour’s powerful new spy novel is based on the premise that the Cold War is not over; it has simply gone underground. This is the fiercely held view of Rupert Mowbray, recently retired from British intelligence, who warns that East-West friendship and cooperation are an illusion and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has resumed nuclear testing even as he builds a police state to rival that of Stalin. Mowbray is a proud old Cold Warrior whose career peaked in 1998 when a Russian naval officer, Viktor Archenko, began sending the British valuable military secrets. But four years later, Russian counterintelligence agents are closing in on Archenko, and a defiant Mowbray organizes a rescue mission to save the spy whom he considers a hero.

His mission is controversial from the first. A young intelligence officer, Gabriel Locke, argues that Archenko is a spy who deserves no sympathy. But Mowbray convinces his superiors that honor and loyalty demand that they make every effort to rescue the Russian, who has risked his life for them. Mowbray assembles a ragtag team of over-the-hill commandos to carry out the assignment. Unfortunately, Archenko serves in the highly fortified, seemingly impregnable naval base at Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

I found this far more exciting and much better written than anything to come from the pen of Dan Brown. For a start, there is a verisimilitude about this book that Brown simply cannot achieve, and there are actual characters, not just puppets. He is not mentioned in Anderson’s review, but I found the Russian interrogator Yuri Bikov a fascinating creation, far more sinister than the usual stock character in such a role.

Yes, there is lots of blood. It goes with the genre; as the Player King says of tragedy in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, blood is compulsory. But this novel transcends its genre, making comparisons with John le Carre or Grahame Greene seem less than fatuous. I recommend Traitor’s Kiss strongly.

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Posted by on October 1, 2006 in book reviews, British, Political, Thriller, Top read

 

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