A Shadow Intelligence

Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780358206651. $25. THRILLER
After three notable crime novels featuring morally compromised detective Nick Belsey (most recently The House of Fame), British author Harris tries his hand at the spy genre, featuring a morally compromised double—possibly triple—agent. Elliot Kane, who possesses less James Bond suavity and more George Smiley world-weariness, has changed identities and cover stories so often that when MI6 suddenly removes him from a botched operation to civilian life, he doesn’t know how to adjust. Before long, Elliot becomes ensnared in a mystery that will send him off the grid to Kazakhstan: uncovering the whereabouts of fellow agent and one-time lover Joanna Lake. What he discovers about Joanna’s reason for being in this landlocked country perched precariously between China and Russia puts him in play with several competing intelligence organizations both national and private. The narrative is dense, and juggling the various plots and identities can be tough. Still, this is a thoroughly modern, sophisticated espionage novel for the 21st century, concerned with data encryption and the dark web, AI-generated deep fakes, and up-to-date Central Asian geopolitics.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of Olen Steinhauer’s spy novels and Terry Hayes’s I Am Pilgrim.

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