David Downing, author of the six-volume John Russell espionage series (starting with Zoo Station in 2007), offers a new stand-alone historical thriller. For now.
His latest, Jack of Spies, is set on the brink of World War I in 1913 and introduces an intriguing new character, Jack McColl. He’s a spy wannabe before James Bond made it cool, and his day job is as a luxury-car salesman in Scotland. Still, Jack’s keen ear for languages lands him a part-time covert gig with the Royal Navy intelligence service in its infancy.
It doesn’t hurt that the car business gives Jack ample opportunities to globe-trot — China, the U.S., Mexico and Ireland are all part of his itinerary. His mission is to determine — and thwart — German plans against the British Empire. All the while, he’s keeping his double life a secret from his love interest, Caitlin Hanley, a radical Irish-American journalist and suffragette.
“Jack McColl is not so much a spy as an intelligence agent whose job involves some spying,” says Downing in press materials, “and over the series, he’ll spend more time foiling plots than collecting information.”
It’s a nice introduction to Jack and His Majesty’s Service.
— Celeste Williams