In the fourth and final installment of David Downing’s spy series, Jack McColl is sent to Soviet Russia, where the civil war is coming to an end. The Bolsheviks have won but the country is in ruins. With the hopes engendered by the revolution hanging by a thread, plots and betrayals abound.
London, 1921: Ex–Secret Service spy Jack McColl is in prison serving time for assaulting a cop. McColl has been embittered by the Great War; he feels betrayed by the country that had sent so many young men to die needlessly. He can’t stomach spying for the British Empire anymore. He’s also heartbroken. The love of his life, radical journalist Caitlin Hanley, parted ways with him three years earlier so she could offer her services to the Communist revolution in Moscow.
Then his former Secret Service boss offers McColl the chance to escape his jail sentence if he takes a dangerous and unofficial assignment in Russia, where McColl is already a wanted man. He would be spying on other spies, sniffing out the truth about MI5 meddling in a high-profile assassination plot. The target is someone McColl cares about and respects. The MI5 agent involved is someone he loathes. With the knowledge that he may be walking into a death trap, McColl sets out for Moscow, the scene of his last heartbreak. Little does he know that his mission will throw him back into Caitlin’s life—or that her husband will be one of the men he is trying to hunt down.
In Russia the Bolshevik revolution is in full-swing while the supposed Great War is destroying Europe in ways never before imagined. Fulltime lovers and part-time enemies, British spy Jack McColl and progressive American journalist Caitlin Hanley, have seen their relationship survive this far but in a world defined by “win at all cost” attitudes how much longer can they hold out?
Winter 1917: As a generation of Europe’s young men perish on the Eastern and Western fronts, British spy Jack McColl is assigned a sabotage mission deep in Central Asia, where German influence is strong. The mission only becomes more dangerous the closer he gets to its heart. Meanwhile, the woman he loves, Irish-American radical journalist Caitlin Hanley, is in Bolshevik Russia, thrilled to have the chance to cover the Revolution. Caitlin knows Moscow is where she is meant to be during this historic event—even if she is putting her own life at risk to bear witness.
But four years of bloody war have taken their toll on all of Europe, and Jack and Caitlin’s relationship may become another casualty. Caitlin’s political convictions have always been for progress, feminism, and socialism—often diametrically opposed to the conservative goals of the British Empire Jack serves. Up until now, Jack and Caitlin have managed to set aside their allegiances and stay faithful to each other, but the stakes of their affair have risen too high. Can a revolutionary love a spy? And if she does, will it cost one of them their life?
Spring 1915: World War One rages across Europe, and the British Empire is assailed on all fronts—domestic and abroad. Amidst this bloodbath of nations, where one man’s flag is another man’s shroud, a British spy is asked to do the impossible: seduce and betray the woman he loves, again. Only this time betrayal is a two-way street.
Jack McColl, a spy for His Majesty’s Secret Service, is stationed in India and charged with defending the Empire against Bengali terrorists and their German allies. Belgium, he finds, is not the only country seeking to expel an invader.
In England, meanwhile, radical journalist Caitlin Hanley begins the business of rebuilding her life after the execution of her brother—an IRA sympathizer whose terrorist plot was foiled by Caitlin’s own ex-lover, the very same Jack McColl. The war is changing everything and giving fresh impulse to those causes—feminism, socialism and Irish independence—which she as a journalist has long supported.
The threat of a rising in Dublin alarms McColl’s bosses as much as it dazzles Caitlin. If another Irish plot brings them back together, will it be as enemies or lovers?
Set on the eve of the First World War, across oceans and continents, steamliners and cross-country trains, David Downing’s complex and thrilling new espionage novel takes us all the way back to the dawn of that most fascinating of 20th century characters—the spy.
It is 1913, and those who follow the news closely can see the world is teetering on the brink of war. Jack McColl, a Scottish car salesman with an uncanny ear for languages, has always hoped to make a job for himself as a spy. As his sales calls take him from city to great city—Hong Kong to Shanghai to San Francisco to New York—he moonlights collecting intelligence for His Majesty’s Secret Service, but British espionage is in its infancy and Jack has nothing but a shoestring budget and the very tenuous protection of a boss in far-away London. He knows, though, that a geopolitical catastrophe is brewing, and now is both the moment to prove himself and the moment his country needs him most.
Unfortunately, this is also the moment he begins to realize what his aspiration might cost him. He understands his life is at stake when activities in China suddenly escalate from innocent data-gathering and casual strolls along German military concessions to arrest warrants and knife attacks. Meanwhile, a sharp, vivacious American suffragette journalist has wiled her way deep into his affections, and it is not long before he realizes that her Irish-American family might be embroiled in the Irish Republican movement Jack’s bosses are fighting against. How can he choose between his country and the woman he loves? And would he even be able to make such a choice without losing both?