Cool-headed spooks and a lot of commentary on modern Russia...
Moscow Sting follows on the heels of Dryden’s Red and Black, a commentary on present-day international espionage featuring MI6, the KGB, the CIA et al; bringing the propensity for the British to underestimate or ironically overestimate its clandestine counterparts. Most telling is the derision of the British politics that seem to perpetually scupper any real progress; presumably this will get up some people’s noses. Dryden’s narrative in Moscow Sting won’t be to everyone’s liking either.
The basic premise is that of a marshalling of various global superpowers with one universal goal: to find the Russian double agent known as Mikhail. With his previous handler, Finn, killed. It falls to his “woman” (yes, that’s how Dryden refers to the opposite sex if a relationship is inferred), Anna, who incidentally turns out to be a defected Russian KGB Colonel, to make contact. A fact not lost on any of the said superpowers. A race then, for all concerned, to possess Anna at all costs and therefore acquire Mikhail. And yet, the story unfolds at a disconcertingly slow pace, beguiling you to believe that ultimately there will be some exceptionally clever twist. But the twist, when it comes, falls short of expectations with its unoriginality.
Where Dryden does excel is in the detail that is sorely underemphasised; the intimate knowledge of weaponry, the devastatingly accurate depiction of friendly “interrogation” methods and the intricacy of the layers of deceit and double-dealing is incredible. You do get the sense that Moscow Sting is a crudely veiled warning to the masses about Russia – paranoia, creative fiction or justified concern – your guess is as good as mine.
Despite the allure of the author (nothing appeals to us readers like the authenticity of a real-life former spy), Moscow Stings is less of a sting than a mild tingle. There is no sense of urgency, no gnawing suspense that drives you to the book’s conclusion; in short, it doesn’t blow you away – it’s a mild breeze rather than a raging tornado. And another thing: don't expect to grasp the intentions behind the inclusion of Lars, the assassin. That particular subplot seems wasted to me.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012