From the book jacket, see below for the review –
A time of turbulence
1975. A summit has been arranged between the Rhodesian government and various nationalist leaders, and is due to take place in railway dining car 49, midway along Victoria Falls Bridge. But Matthew Charamba, a key player in the battle for majority rule in Rhodesia, is hiding a deadly secret.
A time of terror
Claire and Erik are living in Stockholm, raising their son, Ben. But their quiet life is about to unravel in explosive fashion. Each have hidden pasts, to which the other is oblivious, and those pasts have come back to find them.
Time for Paul Dark to take action
When his family is kidnapped, Paul Dark, the most resourceful and dangerous double-agent of the 20th century, must take action or lose the most precious people in his universe.
Jeremy Duns returns us to the world of his British secret service agent turned soviet spy Paul Dark in “Spy out the Land.”
Since Paul Dark was left for dead at the end of his previous book, Duns is left jumping through a few hoops at the start of this one to set things up before the story gets moving. However, once Dark’s new family has been taken by unknown assailants the pace picks up and doesn’t stop. Dark begins hopscotching across the world trying to figure out what happened to his family while British, Russian and Rhodesian agents are on his trail trying to be the first to capture or kill him.
Although this is billed as the return of Dark, it really is two parallel stories. The first being Dark’s journey while the other follows the MI6 agent trying to catch him, Rachel Gold. In this way, Duns has found a way to give us the best of both worlds, providing both a “rogue agent on a mission” story and an “office based mole hunt” story. As Dark finds himself back on the run we also learn about who Rachel Gold is and see her fill the more traditional agent role. Duns cleverly sets up Gold as the one person who can match wits with Dark and, since we already have high regard for Dark’s abilities, builds her up as a strong force to be reckoned with.
An aside – One point I appreciated, especially as a father of young children, is that although Dark’s girlfriend and son are kidnapped we don’t see the young son placed in overt danger. The use of “little kids in jeopardy” tends to be a cheap trick to up the stakes and Duns doesn’t go there.
Many have compared Dark to Bond or one of le Carré’s characters but he actually seems to be following a path previously tread by Charlie Muffin, without some of that character’s dark humor. Given Muffin is one of the great spy creations, that isn’t a problem.
The ending to both plot lines is suitably tense and sets things up quite nicely for the next volume. After finishing this one you’ll be looking forward to seeing what Dark places Duns goes next. (Yes, I said it.)