Review: Dirty Little Secret – Jon Stock

My version: Hardback
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
 HarperCollins Publishers
First published: 2013
ISBN: 9780007300778
Pages: 320

From the cover:
“The trilogy is concluded in the final instalment of the pulse-pounding Daniel Marchant spy series The special relationship between London and Washington is in tatters. Salim Dhar, the world’s most wanted terrorist, has disappeared after an audacious attack on an American target in the UK. The CIA believes Daniel Marchant, renegade MI6 officer, was involved. But Marchant has a bigger secret: Dhar has agreed to work for MI6, promising to protect the UK from future terrorist atrocities. He has also asked for something in return: Marchant must help him with a final strike against America. Should Britain sign up to this Faustian pact or hunt them both down? Intelligence chiefs are divided — and one of them is working for Moscow. In a high octane thriller set in Britain, France, Russia and Morocco, Marchant wrestles with his conscience and his love for Lakshmi Meena, a beautiful CIA officer with her own secret. Does loyalty to one’s country come above all else, whatever the price? Or are some relationships too special to ignore?”

“Things must be serious if the Americans were cosying up to the French.”

Forget exploding jet fighters and escaped international terrorists. Forget British spies who may or may not be in league with said international terrorists and a CIA chief trying to take over MI6. Forget all about an MI6 chief being undermined by his colleagues and a body count, as the result of terrorist action across Britain, mounting by the minute…that’s nowt! If the Yanks are best buddies with the Frogs, the world really HAS tilted off its axis.

‘Dirty Little Secret’, is the third of Jon Stock‘s Daniel Marchant thrillers (hopefully not the last) and begins with the various intelligence agencies trying to pick up the pieces after the mayhem of the end of ‘Games Traitors Play.‘ ‘The fire and confusion, the smoke and the sound’, as the great Todd Rundgren once so eloquently put it. The international terrorist Salim Dhar has escaped the wreckage and gone missing. Our soon to be ex-very good friends, the CIA, are of the opinion that the British MI6 spy Marchant not only knows where he is, but is also actively helping him. It was all an unholy mess and it’s still a mess at the start of this book.

So, everything just how you’d want it from a modern spy thriller. A crazy situation that starts badly, spirals seemingly out of control, then gets much worse. Friends become enemies and those who were enemies in the past, become the only ones you can trust to be predictable in the present.

In fact, I think ‘Dirty Little Secret’ is a lot about and hinges on, how past events shape the present ones. Recent events, in terms of what has gone on in the two previous books, but mainly in the past for nearly all the main characters. The past might indeed be a foreign country, and the country for both father and son (and half-son) Marchant, is India. While the story doesn’t take us there this time, many times their earlier lives in India casts a shadow over their current lives in the here and now. India is where Marchant junior had his formative years, where his twin brother died tragically young and it’s where Marchant Snr was stationed when he, erm…’sowed the seeds’, of at least some of the present situation’s problems. Then, for another of the main, perhaps more old-fashioned, characters, the spy world of the past would have been shaken to its core to find there was suspicion of (yet another) a Russian mole sitting pretty, high up in MI6. It says something about the mess Jon Stock has got us all into, that it feels almost reassuring! No great surprise then, to find a spy chief rushing off eastwards, presumably to Russia. The Yanks, bless ’em, find it shockingly predictable Brit behaviour. They did it in the past, look, they’re at it again now! British spy chief goes AWOL – ring Moscow. But we know it’s not him Moscow have their claws into. In the past maybe, not the present.

Crikey, I can go on a bit, eh? I didn’t want to go writing out the story again, Jon Stock does that job a whole lot better than me, as I certainly hope you’ll discover for yourselves.

I did though feel that the start of the book could have done with a bit more of a bang and been a bit ‘neater’. There is a lot of ‘tidying up’ to do, but I felt it could have been a little sharper in doing it. But it does then kick on shortly after we’ve got everyone scurrying off from under the rock for the rest of the tale. Mainly, I thought it began to work as it should, as well as the first two I mean, when I started to think ‘ooh, they’re not gonna like THAT one little bit.’

With unexpected twists and turns, shocks and surprises, ‘Dirty Little Secret’ is a fittingly high-tension, and thoroughly satisfying final stage (?) in the Daniel Marchant story. When you add to the mix some really rather, shall we say ‘uncomfortable’ treatment dished out to reasonably innocent IT workers (it certainly isn’t easy to look away and keep reading at the same time, I can tell you), and a level of surveillance ability, which, if true in the real world, makes you glad you’ve never typed b.o.m.b. in an email (and I have a tin-foil hat on as I write this). What could be better? Oh yeah, the wife getting annoyed at leaping 6ft in the air off the sofa in shock countless times when I slam the (hardback) book down on the coffee-table with a ‘Ho-ley SHITE!’ (or it’s Danish equivalent, ‘Kors i røven!!!’). Yeah, there’s all that too.

There’s more than one person here, with a ‘Dirty Little Secret’, your mission, and you better choose to accept it, is to find out who can keep it covered up longest.

Go buy the whole series*. Go do it. Now!

*Check on Amazon, for which is 1, 2 and 3. And buy ’em as physical editions, you ‘ll feel much better about it.

You can buy Dirty Little Secret from The Book Depository

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