PositiveThe Times (UK)The challenge for Herron now is to sustain our interest, and indeed his, in his cast of misfits a decade after he first showed he could mix espionage with political satire ... He does this as any good soap opera will, by culling and adding characters and adopting the perspective of different ones for each story ... If the adaptation starring Gary Oldman as Lamb has brought you to the written series, Bad Actors may not be the best introduction to its undoubted joys ... Long-term fans will enjoy catching up with the gang, but much of the fun depends on knowing their history and well-established failings ... Deftly drawn as she is, however, the novel suffers somewhat from the absence of Cartwright as a would-be hero trying to prove himself. Certainly, there are fewer straight thriller elements in Bad Actors than in some earlier titles, and less legerdemain in the storyline. Herron’s great strength remains his gift for rapid-fire repartee ... There’s no doubting Herron’s intelligence ... The muted timbre of Bad Actors compared with previous instalments means it won’t prompt standing ovations, but it deserves the bouquets that will come its way, and Herron is building a series with lasting resonance. We’ll miss the show when some day he decides to bring the curtain down.
RaveAir MailIt may be a formula, but from the opening paragraph of The Berlin Exchange, with its matter-of-fact immediacy, you feel you’re in safe hands ... At 60 years’ remove, even if a new Tepid War beckons, the novel cannot convey the sense those authors did of there being something vital at stake for a world beyond the characters. Nonetheless, it isn’t merely a homage to them. As an entertainment, it’s superbly accomplished, from the Swiss watch plot and crisp dialogue to an atmosphere so well realized it feels as if it is written in black-and-white film ... Keller proves resourceful and begins to devise ways of escape. Bold disguises, car chases and handbrake-turn twists wind inexorably to a climax at the border that shows that Kanon can do not just the talk, but also the tensest of spotlit walks. Expect this to exchange the page for the screen in due course, but before then let yourself enjoy a modern master at work.
Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton
PositiveThe Times (UK)... pretty darn good ... No, there’s been no inhaling here. On its own terms, it certainly outshines Bill Clinton’s lacklustre last outing, The President’s Daughter. Some of the credit, no doubt, must go to the team’s professional player, Penny. For this geopolitical thriller, the creator of Armand Gamache has found a way, during lockdown, to draw a page-turning plot out of Hillary Clinton’s long public service ... But the real appeal of the novel, apart from a fuel tanker’s worth of political score-settling, is that this is as close as you’ll get to being in the White House Situation Room with a secretary of state. Sure, it’s fiction, but that gives Clinton the excuse to reveal what she otherwise might not about global leaders she has dealt with and the nightmares that haunt her sleep ... one in a series of authorial nods that lifts the tone of what stylistically was always going to be, for cultural and commercial reasons, a chunky, occasionally clunky American thriller, written in bite-sized paragraphs with few literary flourishes ... In the same vein, the most fascinating element of State of Terror is seeing the tactics a secretary of state might use behind the scenes to cajole another power or to match wits with a wily supreme leader of Iran.
John Le Carré
PositiveThe Times (UK)All this scene-setting, it has to be said, takes its time to get going, and this in a slim tale of just over 200 pages ... the text still feels undercooked, as if le Carré had planned to drop more ingredients into the pot, and when the ending comes it does so rather abruptly ... It has often been said that le Carré is a novelist, not a mere thriller writer. Yet the thing is that, for all his protests that his creations were always more fictional than credited, what he excels at is giving us a plausible peek into the spy’s world ... The past is always what is most present in his novels, and in Silverview le Carré’s footing is surest as we follow Edward back into the 1980s and 1990s ... Here and there the paintwork still catches the light, but it is no late masterpiece. Yet lo! —what past glories sail on forever in its wake.
PositiveThe Times (UK)There is nothing especially innovative about the plot of The Mercenary , which often feels like a homage to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold , but by ’eck it can have few rivals for the grim authenticity of its setting ... Paul Vidich’s visualisation of time and place — people tracked with spy dust, a grey miasma overlaying all — is, however, masterly.
PositiveThe Times (UK)... amid the uninhibited political satire, notably a thinly veiled portrait of a presidential couple code-named Mastodon and Mockingbird by the secret service, there are enough murders, cover-ups and serpentine twists to keep you rooting for the novel’s spirited heroine, animal handler Angie Armstrong. Just don’t expect it to be bedside reading in the White House.