A solid literary thriller from Mills.
Petrograd, Russia, is a risky place to be in 1919. Thomas Nash is there on secret business for the British, and he kills a man before barely escaping execution by the Bolsheviks. His lover Irina, he hears, is executed in her attempt to leave the country with him. Sixteen years later, he lives quietly on the French coast, long out of the spy game. He sails, enjoys close friends and dotes on his beautiful goddaughter Lucy. All is well until his dog Hector disappears and an intruder attacks Tom in the middle of the night. Clearly this is not a robbery; someone wants Tom dead. But why, after all these years? The botched attempt on his life will not be the last, so he has to get to the bottom of this in a hurry. Plenty of twists and turns follow, including an especially well done car chase. The story turns back on itself to weave in colorful background—most of it necessary and entertaining, but some of it rather a drag on the pace one might expect from a thriller. Tom is an appealing hero: flawed, but decent at his core, a man who is tough only because he has to be. The supporting characters such as Lucy and her mother are well drawn and believable, while the villains’ motivations might be a bit of a stretch. Yet the Leninist thuggery caused so many senseless deaths that plausible reasons for murder may not be necessary. All in all, the book paints a convincing picture of a man whose past returns to haunt him and who must face it while he keeps his wits and protects the people he loves.
A lot of atmosphere complements the excitement, while the ending seems to suggest that a sequel might be in the works. Let’s hope so.