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Free Agent: A Novel Paperback – June 29, 2010
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Amazon Exclusive: David Morrell Reviews Free Agent
Creator of Rambo and cofounder of the International Thrillers Writers organization, David Morrell is the New York Times bestselling author of the classic spy trilogy, The Brotherhood of the Rose, The Fraternity of the Stone, and The League of Night and Fog. He is considered by many to be the father of the modern action novel. His latest novel is The Shimmer.
If you're a fan of espionage novels, I hope it won‘t shock you when I say that some authors make the stuff up. They wouldn't know the difference between a dead drop and an ATM machine. If you mentioned "brush contact" to them, they'd think you were talking about a hike in the woods. The truth is, there's a strict discipline to being an operative: rules and codes of conduct and ways of talking that most outsiders don't understand.
I spent the bulk of my career learning about this world, at first from countless non-fiction books that were written by retired members of the community (another favored term), later from former operatives who were kind enough to teach me about what's known as tradecraft—among other things, those dead drops and brush contacts. Because of The Brotherhood of the Rose trilogy, I was admitted to the Association for Intelligence Officers as an honorary lifetime member.
All this is meant to make the point that I know a true espionage author when I see one. John le Carré is, of course, the master of all espionage writers, not only a talented author but a former member of British Intelligence. Robert Littell ( The Company) is another talented accurate espionage author.
And so is Jeremy Duns, whose Free Agent made me keep saying, "Yes, you got this right and that right." In fact, everything's right. An early scene in which a group of spymasters discuss a possible mole is impressively authentic.
Because the fine points of the "spy game" took place during the Cold War, Duns’s cleverly sets Free Agent in that period, specifically 1969, when British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, visited Nigeria during its harrowing civil war. East and West governments vied for control of the region. Espionage schemes were rampant. The main thrust of Duns' novel is an assassination plot against the prime minister, so if you're an action fan, you'll find plenty to your liking, but for my money, it's the true espionage details that kept me turning the pages of this remarkable novel.
(Photo © Jenifer Esperanza) --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set in London and Nigeria during the latter's 1969 civil war with flashbacks to the months after WWII, Duns's terrific debut will draw inevitable comparisons to early John le Carré, though the lead character, turncoat British Secret Service agent Paul Dark, is a complete original. In Nigeria, KGB agent Vladimir Slavin has asked the British for asylum, offering in trade the name of a Soviet mole lodged in the upper echelons of the Secret Service. That mole, we soon learn, is Paul, an ideological victim of youth and notions of revenge, who in 1945 assisted his father, a fellow MI6 operative, in a number of secret missions to hunt down and kill Nazi war criminals. Paul flees to Africa, where he expects to find a former Russian nurse he once loved and whom he once believed long dead. Seldom has a thriller plot taken more unseen turns as Paul searches for the truth about his past and the reality of his present. Readers will eagerly await the sequel. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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However Mr. Duns is not that writer and Free Agent is not that novel. This book at times felt like one of those bad Bond movies, where nothing works correctly and the viewer is left feeling empty at the end. The novel's character's themselves are not fully drafted, more than a few seem as if they were created just for the fact the author believed they needed to be there. Dark, himself seems to be a rather un-likeable character that certainly has the potential to grow in the novel to come Free Country and whatever else follows. I don't want to give away to much, but the entire side plot with Harold Wilson and the attempted assassination and coup definitely didn't belong in the story what so ever, but seemed to be put in with the hopes of adding excitement to a deafening story. I will be truthful and say that I had to push myself to read the last hundred pages or so, because by that time I truthfully didn't care what happened. The last two chapter's did however somewhat make-up for the past hundred and something pages but not by much.
To me it seemed that the only parts of the book I truly may have enjoyed where the first two chapters and possibly the last two, because everything in between was simply trash.
Admittedly, it's wriiten in the classic style of that era, but I think the author indended it to be. Personally, I like the style of John le Carré, that's why I liked FREE AGENT.
I look forward to Duns' next book.
All characters are styrofoam cut-outs of the genre, with no real depth and nothing to make them stand out in the reader's mind. I found it difficult to recall characters that had disappeared from the story for a while. There were many characters that were so much alike that I couldn't remember which was which was which...
I can't even classify this as a decent diversion. There just isn't anything about this story that causes me to want to read the sequel; and they made no mistake, at the end, in letting us know that this dreadful story would continue.
The book is not thrilling, not mysterious, not suspenseful and when the finale finally arrives it's not shocking, not even interesting.
I rarely rate a book 1 star as writing a book is a difficult task, but this certainly does not deserve a 3 star (average) rating. It's just a poor outing...