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Lenin's Roller Coaster (A Jack McColl Novel) Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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Praise for Lenin's Roller Coaster
"[A] splendid saga of espionage during the Great War . . . Downing is a master of action . . . [He] also slips in plenty of historical reality—women’s suffrage, revolutionary hopes, progressive politics, Irish nationalism—without ever losing sight of the story."
—The Globe and Mail
"A dizzying ride through the Russian Revolution and its loops and curves into WWI politics . . . packed with historical information and detailed place descriptions."
—Historical Novel Society
“Downing is a master at grabbing the historical moment and holding it close, and he brings the tempestuous revolutionary era to vivid life here, setting it against what appears to be a doomed love story.”
—Bill Ott, Booklist
"A sensitive yet action-packed novel of conflict both on international and interpersonal levels."
—Bruce Tierney, BookPage
"History buffs and espionage fiction fans will enjoy this entertaining novel, which might also make a good choice for book groups commemorating the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution."
Praise for the Jack McColl novels
“Downing is a master at bringing little-known history to light and building great plots around it. It helps that he knows how to pace a story and develop characters that stay in the mind. Can’t wait for the next episode.”
—The Globe and Mail
“[Downing] is a master at bringing the past to life through the careful and often
loving observation of even minor players and through the artful deployment of specific detail. In addition, Jack McColl’s debut has a zest, an exoticism and a joie de vivre well-suited to an era when best sellers were being written by Zane Grey, suffragettes were demanding the vote, and opium parlors were a readily accessible temptation.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Engrossing . . . Comparisons to W. Somerset Maugham’s classic stories about Ashenden, another gentleman spy, are well deserved.”
—The Seattle Times
“Downing reaffirms his place as one of the finest espionage writers with this engaging historical thriller.”
—Bruce Tierney, BookPage, Top Pick in Mystery
“A brilliant historical portrait and a captivating love story to boot. A remarkably engaging world tour of pre–World War One espionage featuring an honorable protagonist begging for a long series.”
—Lyndsay Faye, author of The Fatal Flame
“Moves along briskly and offers interesting facts about events now a century past.
It’s always entertaining.”
—The Washington Post
About the Author
David Downing grew up in suburban London. He is the author of two other Jack McColl novels, Jack of Spies and One Man’s Flag; the thriller The Red Eagles; and six books in the John Russell espionage series, set in WWII Berlin: Zoo Station, Silesian Station, Stettin Station, Potsdam Station, Lehrter Station, and Masaryk Station. He lives with his wife, an American acupuncturist, in Guildford, England.
Top customer reviews
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On the other hand the fictional characters in the novel, including the protagonists (Jack McColl and Caitlin Hanley) leave much to be desired. We are told, on a number of occasions, that they are in love, but the love scenes are dismissed in at most two sentences, There is no development of their relationship, and the two continually strike off in totally different directions. This supposedly adds suspense to whether their love will ever be permanently rewarded, but in fact raises the question - do they really care about one another, or are their actions simply plot devices to re-enforce the presentation of various aspects of the revolution? The protagonists engage in far too much travel - in different directions: Caitlin a long, boring passage on the Trans Siberian Railroad, while Jack is stuck in the Ukraine. Jack, the spy, represents the Allied (British) approach toward the revolution, while Caitlin (the American) is enamored of socialism - another possible barrier to their coming together.
Everyone would no doubt live more happily ever after if Jack and Caitlin could be retired from active duty - to allow either the return of John Russell of "station" fame or the introduction of a different World War I spy. Four stars for the historical background; two stars for the fictional plot.
Several real historical figures make their appearance, most notably Alexandra Kollontai the leading feminist of the Russian Revolution who would found the Women’s Department in 1919. She and Caitlin are soulmates. In Moscow McColl runs into Sidney Riley, the Ace of Spies while plotting to overthrow Lenin’s regime. How McColl ends up in Moscow is an adventure in of itself. Through the eyes of both Henry and McColl we see the growing role of the Cheka (secret police) in the day-to-day lives of urban Russia; a portent of things to come.
Given their ideological differences and their long periods of geographical separation cause by the war, it remains to be seen whether or not their romance will survive. We await Downing’s next book, if there is one, to see if they make a go of it.