(32. - 1104.) The Old Enemy by Henry Porter - A retired English spy, Robert Harland, goes down fighting upon a deserted beach in Estonia while painting the sea and sky. Ripples from his death soon reach London.
Another former British government spy, Paul Samson, now free lancing for private industry and individuals when not running his Lebanese restaurant, is warned that he might be the next target.
In the United States Kurdish born businessman, Denis Hisami, has been hounded by the federal government. On his way into Congress to testify before a hostile committee he is handed newspapers which he hands to his lawyer. As he starts to testify Hisami and his lawyer collapse in paroxyms. The papers have been saturated with a nerve agent. The lawyer dies and Hisami is left critically ill.
In London assassination attempts are made upon Samson.
The common element between the attacked was an intelligence operation whose climax in Estonia saw two Russians killed.
Yet it does not appear a Russian operation.
The violence is the opposite of the average thriller. There are no clever efficient killers in The Old Enemy going after the good guys. Vicious disposable thugs from various European countries are hired. What conspiracy would use such amateurs? They gather attention and, even if disposed of, leave trails.
The beautiful Anastasia, Hisami’s wife and Samon’s former lover, and Naji, a brilliant Syrian refugee, are involved in a private intelligence operation being carried out by Harland and Hisami.
Individuals high within the governments of Britain and the United States have been recruited or blackmailed to betray their countries. The origin of the mastermind of this penetration, code named Berlin Blue, is in the Stasi of East Germany in the 1980’s.
The reasonably complex plot takes espionage into the high tech of the 21st Century gathering both vast and very particular information. At the same time individuals are targeted with the traditional means of exploitation.
I enjoyed the interaction of the characters and how an important section of the plot took place in Estonia, not often a destination for thrillers, but clearly a land of many spies as it adjoins Russia.
The climax is a remarkable resumption of the Congressional hearing at which Hisami had been stricken. All the main characters are present for a striking denouement..
As I reflected on the book I realized I would have preferred a reversal of roles. My favourite characters, though their presence was brief, were Harland and Hisami. It is probably because of my senior years that I would have preferred them to have been the protagonists with Samson killed and Anastasia poisoned. They would have been the aging warriors intent on avenging their proteges and uncovering the conspiracy. Their acknowledged brilliance and tenacity would have carried the book.
The Old Enemy is an excellent book.
Porter, Henry - (2003) - A Spy's Life; (2004) - Empire State (Tied for third Best fiction in 2004); (2004) – Remembrance Day; (2005) – Brandenburg; (2009) - The Dying Light; Hardcover