In this third novel featuring MI6 spy Joe Wilderness, the titular hero has been posted to Finland, where he begins smuggling vodka across the rather porous border into the USSR with help from his old KGB pal Kostya. But there is something fishy about why Kostya has suddenly turned up in Finland—and MI6 intelligence from London points to a connection to the mining of cobalt in the region, a critical component in the casing of the atomic bomb.
Lawton does a brilliant job of incorporating backstory here, deepening our understanding of and feelings for rule-breaking Joe, who cares more for people than governments, while delivering a jaw-dropping finale that will leave readers palpitating for more.
John Lawton’s British detective fiction has reached the height of being predictably stirring, powerfully written, and cleverly knit together ... As a crime novel or work of espionage, Hammer to Fall isn’t a simple read. It demands some historical grasp of the reader, and patience with the curling plot. But there are intermittent sweeteners of humor and affection, and the final scenes lead dramatically to a high-tension Cold War quandary that promises more to come in this entertaining series.
John Lawton infuses Hammer to Fall with ironic, dispassionate humor, never more so than Wilderness’s cover story ... Wilderness is a lightning rod for trouble and danger—and his sardonic, deadpan approach to life’s vicissitudes adds to the pleasure of reading Hammer to Fall.