A Colder War – Charles Cumming

Published April 29, 2015 by bibliobeth

21064400

What’s it all about?:

MI6’s Head of Station in Turkey is killed in a mysterious plane crash. Amelia Levene, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, wants the incident investigated – quickly and quietly.

The only man she can trust is Thomas Kell, a disgraced spy searching for redemption.

Arriving in Istanbul, Kell discovers that MI6 operations in the region have been fatally compromised: a traitor inside Western Intelligence threatens not just the Special Relationship, but the security of the entire Middle East.

Kell’s search for the mole takes him from London, to Greece, and into Eastern Europe. But when Kell is betrayed by those closest to him, the stakes become personal. He will do anything to see this operation through – including putting himself, and others, in the line of fire…

What did I think?:

Okay, confession time. Espionage novels really aren’t my thing, but I was prepared to give this one a shot, firstly because I’ve never read any of the authors work before and secondly because it was chosen for the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club this year. I follow their recommendations religiously and 9 out of 10 times they get it right for my personal reading interests. Unfortunately this time, I was sorely disappointed. As the story begins, the chief of MI6, Amelia Levene, also known as “C,” is having a terrible time. A few agents abroad in Greece, Turkey and the Middle East that have defected to working for the West have been killed and rumours are flying around that there is a mole within the service. To add to this, one of her British agents Paul Wallinger (whom she was having a long-standing affair with) has been killed in a light aircraft crash yet the manner of his death is arousing her suspicions.

Enter former agent Thomas Kell who is not actively working in the service after an enquiry into events that happened in the authors previous novel, Foreign Country. Amelia is not only Thomas’s boss but a good friend and she asks him to find out all he can about Wallinger’s fatal “accident.” There are a lot of mysteries to be solved that Thomas is keen to get to the bottom of including why Wallinger, a notorious womaniser, was doing in Greece in the first place. As Thomas begins to unravel all the messy details of Wallinger’s life and last movements he begins to realise that he has become embroiled in something a lot bigger than just a plane crash. Furthermore, when he becomes romantically involved with Wallinger’s beautiful daughter Rachel he finds it difficult to separate his emotions from the job he has to do which could prevent him from achieving the results he needs.

For me, this novel proved quite tricky to read, especially in the beginning where I found the pace excruciatingly slow and didn’t really understand what was going on. I did get used to the writing style eventually but it took a good third of the book for the action to pick up and for me to get a handle on the plot. It’s obvious that Charles Cumming is a talented author who can write well but it felt like the reader had to be a bit of an expert on spy lingo and procedures which I definitely fall flat on! The characters were interesting enough – I would have liked a bit more focus on the Chief of MI6, Amelia who seemed like the most intriguing character and I would have been curious to learn more about her mindset as a strong, intelligent woman who although married, had recently lost her lover in hazy circumstances. I do think that many people will enjoy this novel, especially if you enjoy a good spy read. Personally, I’m sorry to say it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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