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Old Flames: An Inspector Troy Thriller Paperback – February 7, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
Book 2 of 7 in the Inspector Troy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Third-timer Lawton (1963; Black Out) breathes new life into an increasingly creaky genre with this complex, evocative tale that's part Cold War thriller, part whodunit and part olde English lament. Reprising his role as a Russian aristoi-cum-Scotland Yard shamus, Freddie Troy returns from Black Out's wartime fog to the dreary 1956 London of Guy Burgess and Kim Philby, where the visiting Nikita Khrushchev is cheerfully threatening nuclear annihilation. Given his Russian background, Troy is roped into an official-escort-and-spy-while-you're-at-it routine. The Russian leader gets uncomfortably pally with Troy as they tour the city, giving him a secret code word for shadow correspondence; Troy is just beginning to feel relieved at Khrushchev's departure when the decomposed body of an English frogman who allegedly spied on Khrushchev's ship turns up. The pursuit of an insignificant spy killer leads Troy into a maze of double agents, money laundering and murder, not to mention possible corruption inside Scotland Yard and both MI5 and MI6. Along the way, the author cleverly uses his protagonist and a motley crew of secondaries to meditate on WWII nostalgia ("They remember all that was bad about it and go on celebrating it. And the good stuff... the way you class-conscious bastards pulled together... all that's forgotten. You used to know you were all in the same boat, now you don't even think you're on the same river") and the settling chill of the Cold War (" `The Bomb' was `THE BOMB'. Not HE or incendiary, not 500lb or ton, but megatons-a word still virtually incomprehensible to most people, often paraphrased in multiples of Hiroshima: twenty Hiroshimas; fifty Hiroshimas"). Lawton has created an effective genre-bending novel that is at once a cerebral thriller and an uproarious, deliciously English spoof.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

April 1956. Nikita Krushchev is in London on a diplomatic errand. Chief Inspector Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard is assigned as a bodyguard to the Russian leader. But he has a secret mission, too: Troy, fluent in Russian, is to spy on Khrushchev (who doesn't know the British cop speaks his language) by eavesdropping on private conversations and reporting back to his superiors. It's a tough assignment, with a handful of tricky moral qualms, and it gets a heck of a lot tougher when a Royal Navy diver turns up dead. Apparently the diver had been snooping around Krushchev's ship. Who sent him? And who killed him? And what does Troy's former lover, a U.S. Army officer turned KGB agent, have to do with all this? Lawton, whose earlier novel Black Out (1995) also featured Troy, vividly re-creates cold war Britain. Like Robert Harris' World War II novel Enigma (1995), this is jam-packed with detail and with many fully realized characters. The intriguing mystery plus the wonderfully re-created period setting equals first-class storytelling. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Inspector Troy
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780802145543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802145543
  • ASIN: 080214554X
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a fairly ambitious book in which the author seeks to combine three genres. It is primarily a mystery-thriller set in the context of the Cold War. Since the author is British, it returns to the staple preoccupation of British Cold War thrillers, the existence and nature of upper class traitors. It contains a serious attempt to depict mid-50s Britain, and is so also a historical novel. Finally, it is a psychological novel whose hero is approaching middle age and the examining his rather unsatisfactory personal life. This is quite an undertaking and Lawton succeeds fairly well on all counts, producing a very readable book. As a thriller, it is quite good and well above the average though not as good as LeCarre's best books. As a historical protrait, I suspect Lawton does quite well and it is faily good as a historical novel. The psychological element is similarly good and clearly intended to parallel some aspects of modern British history, which is a nice touch. To really appreciate this part of the book, you really have to Lawton's prior book, Blackout, which features many of the characters in Old Flames. Blackout is worth reading on it own. Old Flames also contains a couple of cute insider jokes. I'll buy anyone who can identify the wine joke a copy of the paperback edition.
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Format: Hardcover
i read a few espionage novels each year, in amidst many mystery/police procedural novels. this is the best in the past few years. i liked a recently read alan furst novel, but i'd have to say this one was more satisfying. furst is good. lawton is very good. i didn't know the history, so the author's liberty with it didn't bother me. but i enjoyed the history and the author explains at the end that while he takes some liberties, he's not distorted events.
more cerebral than deighton; akin to le carre.
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Format: Hardcover
I had a hard time figuring out how to review this book. Maybe I tried to take it too seriously (British humor can catch me unaware, although I adore it). Or maybe I was just too lazy to keep track of the myriad plot reversals and story twists. But, in my defense, I felt Lawton had a tendency to overindulge in adjectives (in flagrant opposition to the book I finished just prior to OLD FLAMES, in which finding a sentence with both a noun and a verb was a cause for celebration). Despite that, he has crafted a complex, richly imagined tale set during the height of the infamous Cold War. And much of the feel of elaborate detailing may be due to his filmmaking background. At times, the book reads like a colorful script, the set described with painstaking particularity.
Imagine this: It is 1956, London. Chief Inspector Freddie Troy --- first introduced in BLACK OUT --- finds himself volunteering, under some duress, to be bodyguard for Nikita Kruschev during the Russian's visit to England. It's Troy's little secret that he understands Kruschev's language perfectly well and the British government wants him to keep it his secret, even listen in whenever possible and, naturally, report back any interesting tidbits. As assignments go, it's not too bad until a corpse shows up, that of an apparent Royal Navy diver killed while spying on Kruschev's ship. Troy undertakes to solve the problem of the frogman's identity and to unravel the mystery of his mission and who killed him. But, to complicate matters, nearly every direction he turns to search for answers leads him to another dead body. And each dead body reveals another layer of intrigue. Wedged in with his pursuit of clues, he squeezes in a few romantic encounters and some nostalgic ones.
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Format: Hardcover
This would have been a great book had Lawton removed about 100 pages and stuck to the main story more. Having said that, the story itself is a good one and says alot about England in the middle 1950s, dealing with the loss of Empire and the destruction to their infrastructure in WWII.

Frederick Troy, who we met during WWII in "Black Out" is now an inspector and head of the 'Murder Squad' at Scotland Yard. His brother Roy, is a Labour MP, and shadow Foreign Minister. When a need for a russian speaker to 'assist' Special Branch in listening in on Kruschev during a 1956 visit, comes about, Troy is convinced to help out. Here is where a lot of the story could have been cut.

When the Russians claim that they were under surveillance by a frogman, his body doesn't turn up for five months. When Troy is asked by his 'widow' to prove the body isn't that of her husband, a series of events begin to enfold that will lead Troy to revelations he wished he never had to uncover. To say more would give away the best part of the story, which is well developed and presented in a believable manner.

Lawton, also has the distracting habit of putting ideas into the mouths of this characters that would be prescient if the book was written in 1956, but since it was written in 1995, the only ones who would be amazed are the other characters in the book (so why do it?). Lastly I find Lawton's treatment of heterosexual sex, and especially his ideas as to how woman look at sex to be a cross between Nabokov and a twelve year old. When reading some of his scenes, I have come to wonder if the man has ever had sex with a woman, or to that matter anyone other than himself. Just MHO.
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