Journalist Duns debuts with a thriller offering more spins than a Bolshoi gala, as an MI6 agent combs Nigeria for a lost love who can untangle a labyrinthine scheme devised during World War II.
In 1969, Paul Dark is summoned by his boss to discuss a Soviet agent, now in Nigeria. Eager to defect, the Russian has promised he’ll finger a British agent turned by Moscow in 1945. Fearing a scandal, the Chief asks Dark to take the case, which involves a nurse who may have blown the cover on Dark’s father when he undertook an operation in Germany during the war. Dark listens, then pulls a Luger and dispatches the Chief. Flashbacks reveal that as the war ended Dark’s father enlisted him in an operation to kill German SS officers. Pursuing one of them, Dark is stabbed. He recuperates at a hospital where he learns his father has abandoned him, leaving a letter telling him to return to England. Dark falls hard for a woman posing as a nurse who is really a Soviet agent. She tries, unsuccessfully, to turn him for the Russians. Then Dark finds his father, shot in the head. Since the nurse may be the same nurse the chief mentioned, Dark must now find her to unravel the case. Once Dark lands in Nigeria, a puzzle promising complexities worthy of le Carré becomes a colorless tale. Like many a noir hero, Dark is drawn to a mysterious woman in a bar. In this case she is Isabelle Dumont, a writer for Agence France-Presse. He trusts her only after he strip-searches her at gunpoint, then makes love to her. The two embark on a trek involving capture, escape and an assassination plot. Eventually Dark brings MI6 the information they need. His superiors spin matters into one final, dry twist that mocks his sense of being a free agent.
The plotting is delectably tricky, but the character of Dark requires more shading before he returns for the promised next episode.