*Starred Review* Downing concludes his Jack McColl espionage series with an adventure-filled yet nuance-rich finale. In 1921, disaffected British spy McColl is languishing in a London prison when his former boss offers him a way out: return to Russia, where he is a wanted man, to spy on other British spies from rival MI5. That the MI5 agent leading the effort is Jack's rival, Aidan Brady, adds an extra element of frisson to the assignment, as does the possibility of encountering Jack's former lover Caitlin Hanley, who chose the Russian Revolution over her love for Jack. Once in Russia, where the civil war has ended but the revolution is experiencing severe growing pains, Jack embarks on a harrowing train trip across famine-decimated Russia and on to India, during which he, inevitably, reunites with Caitlin; plays a cat-and-mouse game with Cheka officer Komarov, who can't decide if Jack is friend or enemy; and attempts to thwart a misguided assassination attempt. The tension mounts throughout, and, as in the earlier volumes, it comes not only from the external dangers facing the principals but also from the larger questions of loyalty to a cause or to other people. As revolutionary fervor turns to totalitarian abuse (and the rulers still wear "80-ruble shirts"), Caitlin, Komarov, and Jack all attempt to come to grips with a world that has lost its clarity. Ending his series on a perfect tonic chord, Downing masterfully combines high adventure, Doctor Zhivago–caliber romance, and just the right amount of Graham Greene ambiguity. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.Review by Library Journal Reviews
In 1921, retired British spy Jack McColl socks a copper in the snoot and ends up in prison. The Secret Service lures him with a pardon in exchange for off-the-books work in Moscow to unmask an assassination plot whose target is in India. The assassin may well be Aidan Brady, McColl's hated enemy. At breakneck pace, the two opponents race across Eurasia to Delhi. McColl's team includes his lost love Caitlin Hanley drafted into the pursuit by a Cheka boss (Soviet secret police), while Brady has enlisted her husband as a confederate. In Delhi, the denouement provides a worthy ending to the jam-packed McColl books (Jack of Spies; One Man's Flag; Lenin's Roller Coaster). Downing adds a special contemporary note in his depiction of Caitlin's work for women in the USSR, which resounds with Edwardian-era #MeToo experiences. VERDICT Historical espionage fiction owes much to Downing, who translates his deep knowledge of early 20th-century geopolitics into lively and lusty adventures of the first order. Astute probing into the minds of people enduring upheaval takes this series out of the action genre and into the ambiguity of failed hopes and lost causes. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/17.]—Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA Copyright 2018 Library Journal.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
Set in 1921, Downing's fitting conclusion to his superior quartet of WWI-era spy thrillers (after 2017's Lenin's Roller Coaster) finds series lead Jack McColl behind bars after he punched a London police constable for insulting an injured war veteran. Jack's actions in rushing the comatose policeman to the hospital persuaded the judge to sentence him more leniently, but Jack still faces a seven-year stretch. He's offered a reprieve by his old handler, Secret Service chief Mansfield Cumming, who makes Jack a deal: he'll get him out of jail if he agrees to travel to Russia to figure out what MI5 is up to. "Five" has had covert contact with an Indian delegation that just settled a trade deal with Russia but has refused to share with Cumming what they're planning. Jack takes the deal and ends up crossing paths with both an old love and an old foe as he races to derail a murder plot that could have catastrophic geopolitical consequences. As always, Downing's intelligently constructed characters complement a plausible and pulse-pounding plotline. Agent: Charlie Viney, Viney Agency. (Apr.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.
A former Secret Service spy serving time in a 1921 London jail for assaulting a cop is offered a freedom in exchange for a dangerous, unofficial assignment in Russia, in the latest addition to the series following Lenin’s Roller Coaster.Review by Publisher Summary 2
Jack McColl is sent to Soviet Russia in 1917, where the civil war is coming to an end with the Bolsheviks the victors but the country in ruins; and, with the hopes engendered by the revolution hanging by a thread, plots and betrayals abound.Review by Publisher Summary 3
In the fourth and final installment of David Downing's spy series, Jack McColl is sent to Soviet Russia, where the civil war is coming to an end. The Bolsheviks have won but the country is in ruins. With the hopes engendered by the revolution hanging by a thread, plots and betrayals abound.London, 1921: Ex'secret Service spy Jack McColl is in prison serving time for assaulting a cop. McColl has been embittered by the Great War; he feels betrayed by the country that had sent so many young men to die needlessly. He can't stomach spying for the British Empire anymore. He's also heartbroken. The love of his life, radical journalist Caitlin Hanley, parted ways with him three years earlier so she could offer her services to the Communist revolution in Moscow.Then his former Secret Service boss offers McColl the chance to escape his jail sentence if he takes a dangerous and unofficial assignment in Russia, where McColl is already a wanted man. He would be spying on other spies, sniffing out the truth about MI5 meddling in a high-profile assassination plot. The target is someone McColl cares about and respects. The MI5 agent involved is someone he loathes. With the knowledge that he may be walking into a death trap, McColl sets out for Moscow, the scene of his last heartbreak. Little does he know that his mission will throw him back into Caitlin's life'or that her husband will be one of the men he is trying to hunt down.