“Battle had fallen into the ex-military trap of short sentence. If I didn’t break him out of it, I feared he’d never savour the joys of a comma again.”
One of the most enjoyable novels I read in 2014 was The Clown Service by Guy Adams. A fantasy spy novel of sorts. It was witty, well paced and cleverly plotted and on finishing it I hoped it was opening the door to a series of books.
Then came, The Rain-Soaked Bride at the start of the year and my hopes were realised. And now hot on the heels of that book comes A Few Words for Dead.
Once again we are transported into the world of “Section 37”, the unmentionable section of the British secret service – the section tasked at explaining the unexplainable and otherworldly. Back is our reluctant hero Toby, as his new wife Tamara, and of course the head of the department, August Shinning.
If The Clown Service was Toby’s book, and The Rain-Soaked Bride a more communal affair, A Few Words for the Dead definitely belongs to Shining.
Whilst Toby and Tamara are still battling with Fratfield, and a wind demon in Mexico, Shining is taken in for questioning by Section 12, who suspect he may have been a security risk. They want to know all he can tell them about an ex agent, Lucas Robie – a man who could quite literally charm the pants off you. The bulk of the book is taken up by Shining’s interrogation and his telling of how he came to know Robie 30 years ago and how that resulted in a fatal incident. Separately, an assassin has been hired and dispatched to kill Shining, which allows for the here and now plot line to co-exist with the historical cold-war Robie story. What seems to connect them both is a powerful entity that wants to be flesh and blood and is prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve its goal.
Some readers of the first two books may be disappointed that there is very minimal plot contact between Toby and August in this outing, but personally I loved a whole story given over the acerbic wit and intelligence of August Shining.
“He walked past the reception desk, smiling at the guard stationed there, a bored-looking man working his way through a crossword. He used a pen, you can always spot a show-off”
Shining’s cold war tale is fantastically exciting and entertaining. He is a natural raconteur. In truth at times, the return to the here and now is a bit of a distraction. You just want more time with him in Berlin. He is the kind of brilliant creation that other great Adams, Douglas would have been proud of.
I raced through this book, and as was the case with the previous two, I doubt I’ll read many more entertaining this year. Books to put a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and to restore your faith in smart comedic writing.
I’m already looking forward to my next helping of Section 37.
Review copy provided by Random House / Netgalley