The second entry in a spy trilogy set at the end of World War I.
Venerable thriller writer Goddard (The Ways of the World, 2015, etc.) reveals here that this isn’t so much a trilogy as one continuous narrative that’s humming along to an inevitable conclusion. That said, readers who were frustrated by the cliffhanger ending of the first entry have a “To Be Concluded” waiting for them here. The story picks up with James “Max” Maxted, a handsome young flying ace–turned–double agent. He’s working for German intelligence officer Fritz Lemmer but reporting back to his overlords in the British government. He’s also still seeking to avenge his murdered aristocrat father, an event cleverly documented in an intelligence memo to catch up new readers. Max has been sent by Lemmer to a remote part of Scotland to retrieve “the grey file,” a coded list that documents the agents Lemmer has placed in foreign governments. Meanwhile, Max’s best friend, Sam Twentyman, is trying to lay low as chief mechanic for the British diplomatic fleet but keeps getting tangled up with a pair of intelligence brokers, Travis Ireton and Schools Morahan. In a parallel plot, Max’s mother, Lady Maxted, engages her brother George Clissold to deal with a lawsuit against her late husband. At the center of all this subterfuge are the new players in this global game, the Japanese, as a gangster named Count Tomura Iwazu works to consolidate power and turn this newly divided world to Japan’s benefit. As with the previous book, Goddard is an excellent prose stylist, and his attention to historical detail is masterful. Its sedate storytelling won’t please readers looking for more bombastic thrills, but for those seeking a throwback to a gentler age, Goddard offers a solid follow-up.
A sophisticated spy story with serious historical chops that might serve as an interesting companion to Adam Tooze’s WWI history, The Deluge (2014).