Twenty years after the IRA declared a cease-fire in Northern Ireland, a small, unreconstructed group of its members are plotting to buy weapons from a Russian arms dealer. A legendary runner of agents for MI5 known as Vagabond is called out of self-imposed retirement to thwart their efforts to stir up trouble.
For 16 years, Vagabond—given name Danny Curnow—has been leading tours of World War II sites in Normandy to get over the psychic hurt of manipulating too many intelligence officers to their deaths. But "Desperate," as he's also known, can't sit on the sidelines when British double agent Ralph Exton leads republican Malachy Riordan to Prague to do business with a one-time Russian intelligence agent now involved in organized crime. A host of characters adds to the intrigue, including Matthew Bentinick, the higher-up to whom Curnow is unflaggingly loyal, and ambitious MI5 agent Gaby Davies. Will Exton have the gumption to follow through on his assignment in the face of mortal danger? The action unfolds slowly with all its individual stories, interconnected points of view, and shifts between present and past. But in this, his 30th novel (and fourth concerning the Troubles), Seymour has his fragmented narrative down to such a science there's never any doubt that we will be rewarded for our patience. As classic a thriller as this is, it boasts a sharp contemporary edge that traffics as much in cynicism as despair (everyone is haunted by a death or moral failure). In either mode, the tension builds.
An author who seemingly can do no wrong, British spymaster Seymour delivers another first-rate effort—this one focused on an old-fashioned hero facing up to new challenges.