This is the third book of a trilogy featuring Moscow detective and secret agent Leo Demidov; the other books are Child 44 and The Secret Speech.
Agent 6 is split into two halves. The first half, set in 1965, recounts a diplomatic school trip from Moscow to the UN which results in political intrigue, assassination and murder. The second half takes place during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1980 and the rise of the Mujahadeen. The two halves scarcely talk to one another.
The author writes in small bites, carefully entitled with the place and date, for example 'Soviet-Finnish border, Soviet checkpoint, 760 kilometres NW of Moscow, 240 km NE of Helsinki, New Year's Day 1973'. Some of these sections last only two or three pages. This gives the book a breathless feel which might be mistaken for excitement. It also makes the story rather disjointed. It is, I suppose, a very filmic technique. Each mini story is like an individual frame; together they make the film. But I found it flickered.
A lot of the characters do things and/ or suffer things that are evil and wicked and there is a certain amount of moral perspective offered but a lot of this seems to be told to us rather than the reader being shown the moral vacuums by the actions and dialogues of the characters. The overall feeling is that the plot is in charge of the characters and they are puppets reading their lines, unable to stray from the script.
I think that the author believes that he has given each character a back story and therefore clothed them in reality. The FBI Agent, Jim Yates, has an invalid wife. But somehow that detail doesn't animate Jim. He still does what the plot needs him to whether he would or not. It is as if the author had a box of spare clothes and he fished in the box and randomly picked something to dress his character in. But the character doesn't know what he is wearing.
It was hard work to finish the book and in the en I wondered why I had bothered.
May 2014; 543 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57