Monday, April 21, 2014
World at War
David Downing is the author of the John Russell World War II thriller series (Zoo Station, etc.). This new series begins in 1913 as the world teeters on the edge of the abyss. Jack McColl, a Scottish luxury car salesman with a penchant for languages, is promoting his company's automobile in cities around the world from Shanghai to New York.
On the side, Jack collects intelligence for His Majesty's Navy. But the British Intelligence Service is in its infancy and Jack has only a shoestring budget and little backup for his endeavors. As he travels the globe, though, it's becoming apparent that catastrophic events are brewing and things could easily explode in a world-wide conflagration.
Jack soon finds out how dangerous spying can be when his casual intelligence gathering leads to knife attacks. Enter the beautiful young journalist Caitlin Hanley, a fervent suffragette and feminist. They begin an affair the spans from Shanghai across the Pacific to San Francisco to New York. At the back of Jack's mind, however, is the niggling fear that the relationship won't survive Caitliln and her family's Irish-American politics and her antagonistic view of British colonialism.
Some critics have stated that the book is more of a travelogue than spy thriller, but I really enjoyed the diverse locations. So many stories set in the World War I era plunge you immediately in the trenches and battlefields of France and Germany. Downing points out that it truly was a world at war. Political and social upheaval was touching off confrontations from Mexico to Ireland to India and everywhere in between.
It will be interesting to see where David Downing's story takes Jack McColl next.