- Expected 2 Apr 2020
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.
Lawton scores another hit with his third Joe Wilderness novel (after 2016's The Unfortunate Englishman). Joe starts off in familiar territory, 1948 Berlin, where he's nominally in the Royal Air Force but in reality an MI6 agent; he's also smuggling coffee and cigarettes into East Berlin. During one of his usual deliveries, he's approached by a young Russian, Konstantin "Kostya" Zolotukhin, who wants to place an order for a hundred jars of peanut butter. Joe agrees, setting in place a relationship with Kostya that re-emerges in 1968 England. As the years pass, Joe's often in trouble with various authorities, until his father-in-law and spy boss, Alec Burne-Jones, decides to get Joe out of the U.K. for a while and sends him to Finland, where Joe takes up his old smuggling habits. Most of Joe's old cronies and even his Berlin lover, Nell Burkhardt, appear, and it's a pleasure for series fans to see them all again. Terrific writing, a complex plot with a twist ending, and a roguish lead will have readers eagerly awaiting his next adventure.