Sidelining lawmen Harpur and Iles (Pay Days, 2001, etc.) for the moment, James blisters the pages with in-fighting among the British spy brethren. Since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, there’s been perishing little for the spies to spy on, and once-respectable agent Julian Bowling has pissed off his minders and drug contacts by stealing from one and all and placing at least $9 million, maybe as much as $17 million, in his personal Swiss account. And disappearing. Superspies Cadwallader and Latimer send Simon Abelard to fetch him back, but Abelard, the product of a white mum, a Jamaican dad, and a Cardiff-dock education, is not overpleased at being asked to be more copper than secret agent. He quickly winds up in vintage James territory, dodging rival agency factions and falling for Julian’s junkie girlfriend, US Embassy clerk Lucy Mary McIver, who seems uncomfortably conversant with the intricacies of spycraft. The route to Julian wends through Paris, an Orleans safe house that is anything but, lots of bodies, plummy lies, sultry double-crosses, and backstabbing from both druglords and the Oxbridge contingent. It winds up with the usual Jamesian flourish wherein the good, the bad, and the morally indulgent all get the bejeesus kicked out of them.
Abelard, cut from the same quavery, honorable cloth as Harpur, is a keeper.