Review: Spy Out The Land – Jeremy Duns

5 of 5 stars

Series: Paul Dark 4

My version: Paperback
Historical Fiction Espionage, thriller
Simon & Schuster

A time of turbulence

1975. A summit has been arranged between the Rhodesian government and various nationalist leaders, and is due to take place in railway dining car 49, midway along Victoria Falls Bridge. But Matthew Charamba, a key player in the battle for majority rule in Rhodesia, is hiding a deadly secret.

A time of terror

Claire and Erik are living in Stockholm, raising their son, Ben. But their quiet life is about to unravel in explosive fashion. Each have hidden pasts, to which the other is oblivious, and those pasts have come back to find them.

Time for Paul Dark to take action

When his family is targeted, Paul Dark, the most resourceful and dangerous double-agent of the 20th century, must take action or lose the most precious people in his universe.

It’s been a while since we heard of Paul Dark. Actually, it’s been a good while since anyone heard from Paul Dark.

That’s because Paul Dark is dead. Shot and left for dead, on a lonely, frozen piece of land up near the Arctic Circle, Finland and Sweden. That’s what the British Secret Service think. And Dark is happy for them to think that. Maybe equally happy that the Russians also think so. It means he can get on with escaping the espionage circus and live the life he wants to. He has met a nice girl (as my Mum might say), has settled down in Sweden and has begun a family. But then a chance encounter throws the whole thing up in the air again. Doesn’t it always.

I’m describing this as ‘Historical Fiction,’ which still seems strange as it describes a period that I remember having lived through. And I remember it as yesterday, after reading this. Jeremy has done a fantastic job of recreating the period of the late sixties and early seventies in his book, and I think this one out does them all. In terms of effortlessly and accurately re-creating the feel of the period and in writing a suspense-filled, nail-biting and realistic thriller set within it. While I was reading Spy Out The Land, I thought ‘my boss will hate this book!’ Mainly because she doesn’t read English that well, but mostly because I’m turning up to work dead tired, with (presumably, because I daren’t look in the mirror), black rings around and bags under, my eyes! It really was read-through-the-night addictive. As I have to get up each day to go to work at 05.15, that doesn’t really leave a lot of night left…but that’s another story.

Yes, this threw me headlong back to the ’70s. Where I was actually reminded of another superb recreation of the period, The Rotter’s Club’ if you’ve ever read that. Memories of Angela Rippon trying to pronounce ‘guerilla’s properly. Or as the BBC would have her do it. Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole (sp?), all those. I can remember Ian Smith and Harold Wilson and the conference that provides the high-point of the story, though I can’t now remember the feelings I had at the time, I was only young!

All in all, a superb book, a tense and addictive story, with plenty of follow-up from the previous books, and lots of new interest. The Paul Dark books have become some of my very most favouritest in the Spy genre, thanks to Jeremy’s excellent writing and ingenious plotting, and I think that Spy Out The Land really does put him at the fore-front of the genre. I really, really hope there’s more to come.

*I like him especially, because he, like me, has moved to a Scandinavian country, for love.

You can buy Spy Out The Land at

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