About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Old Enemy by Henry Porter

(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


  1. One thing that interests me about this one, Bill, is that it's got several plot threads, some of them in different countries. It's not easy to make a book like that coalesce, but it sounds as though it all falls together here. The characters sound interesting, too, and I can see what you mean about older protagonists. There's something about being a veteran that can add some richness to a character. I'm glad you enjoyed this.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The combination of countries was well done. The characters were not merely flitting around the world. More about the aging characters in my next post.

  2. I don't know if I've read this kind of book set in Estonia. Tallinn is a spectacularly beautiful city, with its red clay roofs in the old city, and interesting history to play off of, and, as you mention, the geographic location is very good.

    1. Anthony: Thanks for the comment. You could write interesting blog reviews and comments on the settings around the world of so many novels from the trips you and Herb have taken.

  3. I have two books by Henry Porter on my TBR but I have not read either. This one sounds good and I like the various settings. I will look into to getting a copy of this one.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I think spy fiction can work very well with multiple settings around the world. I have enjoyed Porter's books though he can edge in to preachiness.