Fiction Reviews

A Few Words for the Dead

(2015) Guy Adams, Del Rey, £8.99, pbk, 292pp, ISBN 978-0-091-95319-5


This is essentially a spy story from the cold war but which finds its ending in modern times - with a bit of the supernatural thrown in as the raison díÍtre. It is a light and easy read and amusingly written.

The story opens as Toby Greene, an operative from Section 37, and his wife Tamar fight their way through a jungle somewhere in South America. They have finally all but caught up with the traitor Fratfield but they have a problem: Fratfield has cursed Tamar and, if she gets too near to him, she will be killed by a storm demon. Meanwhile, back in England, their boss, August Shining, has been 'invited' to a fact-finding 'interview' with another shady branch of British Intelligence. To add to the interest, the Assassin has just received a new assignment - the demise of August Shining.

In a safe house deep in the Hertfordshire countryside, August is asked to recall the mission to Berlin, some thirty years earlier, in which Lucas Robie, another agent (and his lover), was killed under mysterious circumstances. August recounts how he first met Lucas and later introduced him to the Service and how, now an agent in place, he had gone missing in East Berlin. August had tracked him down and learnt that he was hiding from a spiritual entity who could jump from body to body and simply take them over; it was during an attempt to permanently occupy Lucasí body that his friend had taken his own life in a failed attempt to trap the entity.

Even as he tells his story, Augustís sister April finds herself taken over by the entity and the body count rises as the entity searches for August and, besides which, it is partial to a spot of killing. As 'April' locates August, and with Toby and Tamar coming to the rescue, August realises that the only way to stop the entity is for him to sacrifice himself. Meanwhile the Assassin awaits his chance to complete his contract and the Watcher watches from a nearby hillside, quietly orchestrating events. However, it transpires that there is more than one entity and all is not as it seems.

The story ticks along nicely and is well paced; it is written in a light-hearted style and is often quite funny. The use of the interview to tell the story from the past is not new but it is handled well and the narrative returns easily to the present whilst August takes breaks from his account. The other aspects of the story are woven nicely around the main action, the events of thirty years ago, and so the telling of the tale remains fresh. It is not a deep story, neither does it take us to strange or wonderful places, but it is an enjoyable romp whose pages turn with pleasure.

Peter Tyers

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