Against the backdrop of the first world war, a master spy's reunion with an old flame threatens to burn him to a crisp.
Downing splits his narrative between two ex-lovers, with details of the breakup included piecemeal. British agent Jack McColl is spending 1915 in India brooding about the end of his affair with American journalist Caitlin Hanley and waiting for news of his brother. Caitlin is in London, monitoring the execution of her own brother, Colm, for treasonous activities with the Irish Citizen Army. Even as McColl is called into service to help locate and intercept a German arms shipment, revolutionary stirrings simmer in India. McColl is gathering intelligence on these, and their connection to the weapons, as well. Meanwhile, Caitlin's grief intensifies her affinity for her brother's extreme politics, putting her at odds with McColl. She goes to Berlin to meet her brother's associates while McColl continues to track the gun shipment.The failure of this mission leads to McColl's reassignment to London but not before an interesting encounter with Gandhi himself. Caitlin returns to Dublin after her Continental trip and visits McColl's family in Glasgow while he pursues a new assignment in France and Holland. This character-driven thriller, second in a series by the prolific Downing (Jack of Spies, 2014), has much exposition to catch the reader up in its opening chapters, but the author provides the same authentically detailed depiction of espionage in World War I that his John Russell series offers about World War II.
The book builds in interest and intensity as, bolstered by nuanced historical color, the protagonists grow in complexity.