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TYPHOON by Charles Cumming

TYPHOON

By Charles Cumming

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-55852-9
Publisher: St. Martin's

An MI6 agent must balance the personal and the professional as he tries to thwart the American agent who stole the woman he loves.

Joe Lennox, a British agent operating under deep cover in Hong Kong, is everything Miles Coolidge, his CIA counterpart, is not. While Joe is soft spoken and calm, Miles is brash, loud and confrontational; while Joe has a conscience, both personally and professionally, Miles is unburdened by nagging thoughts of right and wrong. So when Miles plans to steal Joe’s beautiful and charming girlfriend, he uses all the dirty tricks at his disposal. Not satisfied with wrecking Joe’s personal life, Miles also steals a career-making asset from him, namely Professor Wang, a Han Chinese scholar with information about human-rights abuses carried out by the Chinese government against the Uighur population in Xinjiang. Joe is left heartbroken and adrift as the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from British sovereignty to Chinese rule marks the end of his mission. Flash forward to 2008, when the Brits begin to suspect that the CIA is thinking about reviving a dangerous operation, code-named Typhoon, to undermine stability in China. All evidence points to Miles’ involvement, so Joe, given his personal history with the rogue CIA agent, is just the man to do a little digging, provided he can keep his personal feelings for his target—and his target’s wife—from getting in the way of duty. The spy trade as rendered by Cumming (The Spanish Game, 2009, etc.) is all about uncertainty, caution, subtlety and a feel for human relationships, which rings truer, if less adrenaline-inducing, than the testosterone-soaked, knockout-karate-chops-to-the-necks-of-mujahideen approach favored by many of his peers. The tension here is delivered with style, grace and a great sense for the interpersonal, which provides a true sense of depth, as does Cumming’s knack for writing about expat life in contemporary China in a way that feels very real.

A stately thriller for grown-ups.