A collection of retired intelligence agents comes to the aid of the very dashing Christopher family of spies last seen in McCarry’s 1991 Second Sight.
Paul Christopher is dead. Possibly. A packet of ashes has arrived from western China, where the retired spook had spent ten years as a prisoner. Why on earth would he go back to such an awful scene? And why isn’t the provenance of the cremains any better than it is? These and other questions plague Paul’s cousin Horace Hubbard, who was also in the family spying business until caught stealing a national election. Horace rather thinks that Paul has taken the opportunity to drop out of the scenery, and, indeed, following Paul’s state funeral, clues lead Horace to a hollowed-out table leg in his cousin’s house wherein are cached clues suggesting that Paul has headed for central Asia on a hunt for his nonagenarian mum and a glass vial containing a Roman intelligence officer’s eyewitness report of events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Christopher’s mother, a German national who lived enough lives for five ordinary mortals, salvaged the document from Nazi Germany and has been carrying it about ever since. Horace rounds up a group of elderly colleagues and begins a search for Paul that takes him to China, Bulgaria, Turkey, South America, and numerous “-stans.” He must be rather careful, since there is a fatwa out on him. Ibn Awad, an Islamic maniac Horace had supposedly killed in the line of business, is not only alive, but very much in the hunt for that interesting bit of biblical history and very unhappy about that murder attempt. After he eliminates Horace, Ibn Awad plans to blow up numerous satanic cities with the old Soviet A-bombs he's been hoarding, so the Old Boys have to keep an eye out for radiation. There are numerous narrow escapes from goons, police, armies, and Arabs, and a lot of interesting side trips well off the beaten tourist-track.
Excellent spy thriller in the Anglo-American style.