Glasgow 1977 - anarchist, Richard Slater, comes up with the idea that if he was to hide in deep cover until he was in a position of responsibility, he would be able to unleash a devastating act of sabotage capable of starting a revolution. Party activists develop the plan - code name Zima and wait… London 2013 - Richard is in London, working for a financial software company. He has held onto the Zima plan all this time and now knows how to make it succeed. Things start to go wrong when he is contacted by two people claiming to be his handler. To add to his difficulties, he falls in love with a high-class call girl.
Rodgers sets his characters on a series of Kafkaesque espionage stages that illuminate the grimmer aspects of security services: intelligence officers discuss the death of a colleague, who had suffered an apparent mental break, with quotes from Sartre and John Lennon; Richard wanders the grotesque decadence of a high-end brothel, with "curving shapes that lent themselves to being occupied by panther-like females.” The main plot threads and the motives of the many characters can be hard to follow, and there's a bit of deus ex machina in the resolution. However, the individual scenes neatly highlight Richard, trying to remain connected to his long-dormant idealism.
Indeed, the book works especially well as a character study, as Richard gradually integrates his past and present. We learn about the hardscrabble family background that formed his politics and see how he has long been battling his disconnection from people. The pathos of his life becomes clear in a meeting with Melanie, where his reaction is less about desire than an end to his loneliness, and he "expected her to behave with more decorum," even though she is a professional rather than his girlfriend. In the end, this spy thriller’s power comes from its story of one man's quest to discover who he is.
Takeaway: Fans of spy thrillers and revolutionary politics will revel in this twisty tale of a man caught between intelligence agencies.
Great for fans of: Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Len Deighton.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B
This was a good read. The story takes place over several decades, with a plan so intricate that the only way forward is through solid character development and experienced writing. There are twists and turns around every corner and the end of the book was really satisfying.
I would love to speak more in detail about this book but I cannot do so without giving away parts of the plot. Each part of the book namely has its own role and is of importance; the red line can be felt on every page.
An enjoyable book, especially for those who enjoy conspiracy-based fiction!
Although there were dozens of characters, this story of a self-proclaimed ‘sleeper’ will keep you engaged to the very end. The story of Richard Slater, a Scottish rebel at heart, makes me wonder how many of my 20-something-aged college classmates may not have done the same foolish thing in 1970. Richard pledges himself to sabotage capitalism. He spends the next 40 years waiting for the tap at his door that will call in his pledge. Everyone in his life is viewed with suspicion. In his later years, he is running out of time since he can feel his mind giving way. Part espionage, part international terrorism, part psychological thriller, I loved this book.