Hammer to Fall

For readers of John le Carré, Philip Kerr and Alan Furst.

    • 4.0 • 27 Ratings
    • $7.99
    • $7.99

Publisher Description

It's London, the swinging sixties, and by rights MI6 spy Joe Wilderness should be having as good a time as James Bond. But alas, in the wake of an embarrassing disaster for MI6, Wilderness has been posted to remote northern Finland in a cultural exchange program to promote Britain abroad. Bored by his work, with nothing to spy on, Wilderness finds another way to make money: smuggling vodka across the border into the USSR. He strikes a deal with old KGB pal Kostya, who explains to him there is a vodka shortage in the Soviet Union - but there is something fishy about Kostya's sudden appearance in Finland and intelligence from London points to a connection to cobalt mining in the region, a critical component in the casing of the atomic bomb. Wilderness's posting is getting more interesting by the minute, but more dangerous too.

Moving from the no-man's-land of Cold War Finland to the wild days of the Prague Spring, and populated by old friends (including Inspector Troy) and old enemies alike, Hammer to Fall is a gripping tale of deception and skulduggery, of art and politics, a page-turning story of the always riveting life of the British spy.

GENRE
Fiction & Literature
RELEASED
2020
2 April
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
400
Pages
PUBLISHER
Atlantic Books
SELLER
Perseus Books, LLC
SIZE
1.8
MB

Customer Reviews

rhitc ,

Under the hammer

3.5 stars

Author
British TV producer/director and crime/mystery novelist

Plot
It's the 1960s. The Cold War has turned decidedly colder since Brezhnev took over from Khrushchev. MI6 spy Joe Holderness aka Wilderness isn't your typical Oxbridge educated James Bond type, he's more like Harry Palmer in The Ipcress Files: an East End boy from broken violent home with a penchant with illegal side projects like smuggling. He's good at spying though, and he's married to the daughter of a big wig, so he gets away with more than he should. This time, he's exiled to Finland to avoid a parliamentary inquiry into his activities, discovers stuff that he wasn't meant to, which leads to redeployment and more espionage in Czechoslovakia at the time of the Prague Spring and Russian invasion, yada, yada. There's an old flame of Joe's from post-war Berlin involved, who now works for Willi Brandt. The plot felt to me like a melange rather than a coherent whole, as if thrown together to fulfil contractual obligations by an author capable of better.

Characters
Joe is suitably damaged goods and remarkably well read for a barrow boy. His father-in-law is long suffering, as is his missus. His old flame is a law abiding citizen until she's not. (An easy line to cross in Prague in 1968). The supporting cast are well drawn. Some are colourful, others dead.

Narrative
Third person mainly from Joe's POV, but also from several others including the old flame.

Prose
Mr Lawton is obviously a pro, which is why his frequent (5 times at least) use of the word crepuscular annoyed me so much. As a rule of thumb, I don't think a word like that should appear more than once in a 350 page novel, if at all.

Bottom line
Entertaining at times, amusing too, but annoying at others for reasons noted above.

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