FATAL ALLY by Tim Sebastian (Severn House, £20.99). Available in Australia on Kindle $28.57
It has been a long time between books for British journalist and spy writer Tim Sebastian.
His last spy thriller, Ultra, appeared in 1997 and appeared to make the end of a relatively brief, but notable, spy writing career of nine books over the same number of years. Now after a twenty year, or so, break from espionage fiction he has returned with Fatal Ally.
Despite the long absence from the genre, Sebastian has slipped easily back into spy writing and has produced a tense and topical novel about the uneasy relationship between allies.
Fatal Ally opens with an operation to extract a British Intelligence asset from Moscow. Despite being retired for five years, the asset, a former high-ranking KGB agent, claims to have explosive new information. When the British operation is compromised, MI6 operative Margo Lane finds herself at odds with her superiors and on a collision course with her American allies. Desperate to extract revenge, Margo journeys to the blood-soaked Syrian border and a terrifying decision.
Sebastian employs a large cast of characters to create an intricate tale of betrayal and political maneuvering. The viewpoint shifts regularly between the players, as the various strands converge on the desolate border between Jordan and Syria. The concluding sections of the book set in Syria are beautifully written and produce the most excitement and suspense as the various sides violently clash, with devastating results for anyone remotely involved. The depiction of the situation in Syria is chilling and there are some quite moving moments. Sebastian brings to life the horror of the situation faced by civilians in Syria and nicely contrasts it with the cynical maneuvering of the British, Americans and Russians.
The book is nicely paced and there are some well-choreographed set-pieces. The characters ring true and the description of the various international locales is also convincing. In all a very fine piece of writing.
The complaints are few. There is probably a couple of mildly unlikely coincidences and the shifting between the various viewpoints slightly dilutes the tension that would have been produced if the perspective had been limited to a smaller number of characters. But these are quibbles, and overall Fatal Ally is a very good spy novel. There have been some outstanding pieces of spy fiction created so far this year and Fatal Ally is right up there with them.
Four and a half stars out of five!
Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for a copy of the book.