Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Madness of July-James Naughtie

The Madness of July
James Naughtie
Overlook, Oct 2 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781468309614

In stifling hot London, Will Flemyng leaves work as Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to meet out in the open with Sam, a comrade from when they were field agents.  Sam vaguely warns his friend that someone from their espionage days is in trouble and though he cannot say whom for certain he believes it is Will.  Back at the office, his assistant Lucy Padstowe informs him that Paul Jenner wants to talk to him about an American found murdered in Parliament who had Will’s business card in his pocket.  Paul also asks Will to spy again.

Knowing Sam is almost always right and feeling paranoid that someone is after him, but also from his field experience trusts his belief; Will heads to cooler Scotland to consult with his brother Abel Grauber, a New York based politico.  At the same time a third sibling Mungo has learned a truth that if revealed would destroy the family. 

Though the action is somewhat muted and the pacing choppy and leisurely, The Madness of July is a interesting Cold War thriller that sets the era through nuances (at times too clever); for instance mostly men of power making decisions in smoked-filled back rooms.  The storyline focuses on the British side of the hostilities through the three siblings with Will as the prime player struggling to uncover who wants to bury him.  James Naughtie writes an entertaining period piece starring a retired spy forced back into the field.

Harriet Klausner

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