REVIEWED BY SOLOMON HOLMES
Brian Landers (RedDoor Press 2020)
Thomas Dylan is an unlikely protagonist for an espionage thriller. He stumbles into being a spy in a way akin to CharlieChaplin playing a drunkard. He keeps getting promoted despite a massive level of incompetence in the field of spy work, and soon finds himself at the centre of one of the most important handovers in recent history. Set in the 1970s at the inception of an exciting new development in interrogation techniques; Awakening of Spies is the first globetrotting adventure in the Thomas Dylan series. It treads familiar ground for the genre but keeps things fresh enough to be a captivating self-contained adventure.
Landers clearly understands spy tropes and uses them to his advantage; never taking himself too seriously. Expect: double crossings, chase scenes, paranoia, sporadic outbursts of graphic violence, and of course a love interest or two (move over 007). These are all to be expected from the genre but Landers writes with a gracious authority and efficiency that keeps the story moving at a breakneck pace. The plot is campy and fun but that never detracts from the visceral tension present in many of the grittier scenes.
A light level of social commentary is peppered throughout the novel that takes advantage of its Rio de Janeiro setting to comment on systematic government corruption, police torture, and the faults of the class system. It doesn’t go too in depth with it but I appreciated its inclusion nonetheless. It helped with the novel’s verisimilitude hugely.
This stands as an excellent introduction to Thomas Dylan and Julia French whose relationship is at the heart of this series. Their chemistry holds the story together. Whenever the plot began to get a little too ‘standard spy thriller twisty’ for my liking; their witty back and forth ‘will they? won’t they?’ tension debut, Empires Apart; aparallel drawing historical epic, and a kept the story from evercrossing the line into outright pretension.
This is a huge departure from Landers’ debut, Empires Apart; aparallel drawing historical epic, and a polarising piece in its own right. Landers makes the leap into spy fiction with relative ease. If you’re not already a fan of the genre then I doubt this’ll be the one to convert you but if you are then this is definitely one to check out. Awakening of Spies is a fresh new addition to what can be a stale, repetitious genre; showing that espionage can still be done with some gravitas.