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Jack of Spies

A Jack McColl Novel by David Downing

Jack of Spies by David Downing

Review: Jack McColl, a veteran of the Boer Wars, is now a car salesman for the British Company building the Maia, an expensive luxury automobile for the very wealthy. His travels take him around the world, and in contact with the leaders of countries, who want to be on the cutting edge of travel in 1913. A most unlikely candidate for a spy, McColl is nevertheless approached by an old naval officer named Cumming to be an agent for the British Crown, to delve into and ferret out secrets that the empire's enemies are keeping, in Jack of Spies, the first in a new series by David Downing.

McColl rather fancies the job as a spy, even though he seems to be a one-man operation and it certainly doesn't pay well. But he is fairly fluent in several languages, and he has a legitimate reason for being anywhere in the world: Egypt, India, China, and the US, all with potential buyers of the Maia. And all with reasons to want to see the empire fail. It is in China that he meets Caitlin Haney, an American journalist, who also travels the world in search of breaking news. But Caitlin's family are active in the Irish Republican Movement, which the British government is determined to silence. Would the time come when he had to choose between loyalty to his country and his love of a woman?

Though Jack of Spies has a terrific premise and takes place at a fascinating period of time, it nevertheless dwells far too much on setting the stage for the action to come. Minute details about every single scene are described, every building, street, and alleyway getting more attention than the characters themselves. Colorful, to be sure, but also largely unnecessary as it slows the pace of the story to the point where it's tempting to start skimming ahead to when the action might start up again. Jack McColl has the potential to be a strong character for the series, tough and compassionate, and the storylines themselves promise to be dynamic and exciting. But the author would do well to spend a little — or a lot — less time on backdrop detail and more on center stage activity.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Jack of Spies.

Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of Jack of Spies for this review.

Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …

Mystery Book Review: Masaryk Station by David DowningMasaryk Station
Soho Press (Hardcover), June 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616952235; ISBN-10: 1616952237

Location(s) referenced in Jack of Spies:

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Jack of Spies by David Downing

Jack of Spies by A Jack McColl Novel

Publisher: Soho Press
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1-61695-268-6
Publication Date:
List Price: $27.95

Buy the Book (purchase options)

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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews

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