Written by 'a sublimely elegant historical novelist as addictive as crack'- Daily Telegraph
The Inspector Troy series is perfect for fans of Le Carré, Philip Kerr and Alan Furst.
Khrushchev and Bulganin, leaders of the Soviet Union, are in Britain on an official visit. Chief Inspector Troy is assigned to be Khrushchev's bodyguard and to spy on him. Soon after, a Royal Navy diver is found dead and mutilated beyond recognition in Portsmouth Harbour. What was he doing under the hull of Khrushchev's ship, and who sent him there?
Meanwhile, cold-blooded killings have started to follow Troy wherever he goes. Is it possible that the executioner is a fellow policeman, or, worse still, an old friend?
Third-timer Lawton (1963; Black Out) breathes new life into an increasingly creaky genre with this complex, evocative tale that's part Cold War thriller, part whodunit and part olde English lament. Reprising his role as a Russian aristoi cum Scotland Yard shamus, Freddie Troy returns from Black Out's wartime fog to the dreary 1956 London of Guy Burgess and Kim Philby, where the visiting Nikita Khrushchev is cheerfully threatening nuclear annihilation. Given his Russian background, Troy is roped into an official-escort-and-spy-while-you're-at-it routine. The Russian leader gets uncomfortably pally with Troy as they tour the city, giving him a secret code word for shadow correspondence; Troy is just beginning to feel relieved at Khrushchev's departure when the decomposed body of an English frogman who allegedly spied on Khrushchev's ship turns up. The pursuit of an insignificant spy killer leads Troy into a maze of double agents, money laundering and murder, not to mention possible corruption inside Scotland Yard and both MI5 and MI6. Along the way, the author cleverly uses his protagonist and a motley crew of secondaries to meditate on WWII nostalgia ("They remember all that was bad about it and go on celebrating it. And the good stuff... the way you class-conscious bastards pulled together... all that's forgotten. You used to know you were all in the same boat, now you don't even think you're on the same river") and the settling chill of the Cold War (" 'The Bomb' was 'THE BOMB'. Not HE or incendiary, not 500lb or ton, but megatons a word still virtually incomprehensible to most people, often paraphrased in multiples of Hiroshima: twenty Hiroshimas; fifty Hiroshimas"). Lawton has created an effective genre-bending novel that is at once a cerebral thriller and an uproarious, deliciously English spoof.