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A Colder War
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A Colder War

3.3 7
by Charles Cumming
 

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Internationally acclaimed as "a premier writer of espionage thrillers" (USA Today), Charles Cumming is "among the most skillful spy novelists" (Washington Post) and "a worthy successor to the masters…like John le Carré and Len Deighton" (Chicago Sun-Times). Now, with A COLDER WAR, Cumming returns with MI6 agent Tom Kell (A Foreign Country), in a tour

Overview

Internationally acclaimed as "a premier writer of espionage thrillers" (USA Today), Charles Cumming is "among the most skillful spy novelists" (Washington Post) and "a worthy successor to the masters…like John le Carré and Len Deighton" (Chicago Sun-Times). Now, with A COLDER WAR, Cumming returns with MI6 agent Tom Kell (A Foreign Country), in a tour de force that will dazzle readers and critics alike.

A top-ranking Iranian military official is blown up while trying to defect to the West. An investigative journalist is arrested and imprisoned for writing an article critical of the Turkish government. An Iranian nuclear scientist is assassinated on the streets of Tehran. These three incidents, seemingly unrelated, have one crucial link. Each of the three had been recently recruited by Western intelligence, before being removed or killed.

Then Paul Wallinger, MI6's most senior agent in Turkey, dies in a puzzling plane crash. Fearing the worst, MI6 bypasses the usual protocol and brings disgraced agent Tom Kell in from the cold to investigate. Kell soon discovers what Wallinger had already begun to suspect—that there's a mole somewhere in the Western intelligence, a traitor who has been systematically sabotaging scores of joint intelligence operations in the Middle East.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/16/2014
Cumming’s intricate sequel to 2012’s A Foreign Country finds British operative Thomas Kell, who’s been indefinitely suspended from the SIS, reevaluating his life between pints of pale ale at a London pub. But when the call comes from “C”— SIS’s first female chief, Amelia Levene—Kell is back in the game, tasked with unraveling the mystery surrounding the suspicious death of Paul Wallinger, an SIS agent stationed in Turkey who happened to be C’s former lover. The death, coupled with the murders of a growing number of “assets” throughout the region and the failure of numerous joint operations between SIS and the CIA, point to a mole inside western intelligence whose existence threatens every SIS operation—and operative—in the Middle East. It’s hard not to root for a character like Kell—deeply cynical but still very much an idealist—and the bombshell plot twists toward the novel’s conclusion will have spy fiction aficionados eagerly awaiting the next installment. Agent: Luke Janklow, Janklow & Nesbit. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“Cumming has a growing reputation as the heir to the John Le Carré tradition in British fiction.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR
Library Journal
10/01/2015
In present-day Turkey, disgraced agent Tom Kell is brought back into the fold when the female head of British Intelligence recruits him to find a mole suspected of engineering a plane crash that killed her lover. Cumming is considered one of the foremost spy novelists writing today, and this book shows why. (LJ 7/1/14)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-15
An intriguing novel of espionage and deceit set primarily in current-day Turkey.“Spying is waiting,” observes one of two spies waiting for the Iranian exfiltration code-named HITCHCOCK. Their wait ends when they witness a Mercedes explode with the Iranian inside. Soon, the spy named Paul Wallinger is killed when his Cessna crashes. Evidence suggests he committed suicide, but could it have been murder? In London, disgraced SIS agent Tom Kell comes in from the cold to try to learn the truth about the mysterious deaths. Do the Brits have a mole in their midst? Do the Americans at Langley care a whit about the life of a British agent? Kell ponders these questions over many cigarettes—lots of smoking goes on in this story. Wallinger’s daughter, Rachel, also wants to know the truth about the “accident,” and she places herself in harm’s way to find out. The Russians, the Americans, the Iranians and the Brits all have a stake in this “game between spies” drama. Everything to Kell becomes "a clue, a tell, a signal—or a blind alley." The plotting is solid if unexceptional—the twists and turns are unlikely to shock—and the characters are developed just deeply enough to do the job. On the other hand, the details are nicely done; for example the vivid descriptions of the Bosporus: "Kell went outside into the humid afternoon...smoking a cigarette as a rainbow arced across his shoulder towards the distant minarets of Aya Sofia." Obviously this is Cold War fare, but what the "colder war" of the title is colder than is unclear. Colder than the McCarthy era? Colder than the Cuban missile crisis? Nah.Not a bad story, but it probably won’t leave readers breathless. Spy-vs.-spy fans might give it a try.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250020611
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
08/05/2014
Series:
Thomas Kell Series , #2
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
1,341,401
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Colder War


By Charles Cumming

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Charles Cumming
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-02061-1



CHAPTER 1

The American stepped away from the open window, passed Wallinger the binoculars, and said: "I'm going for cigarettes."

"Take your time," Wallinger replied.

It was just before six o'clock on a quiet, dusty evening in March, no more than an hour until nightfall. Wallinger trained the binoculars on the mountains and brought the abandoned palace at Ishak Pasa into focus. Squeezing the glasses together with a tiny adjustment of his hands, he found the mountain road and traced it west to the outskirts of Dogubayazit. The road was deserted. The last of the tourist taxis had returned to town. There were no tanks patrolling the plain, no dolmus bearing passengers back from the mountains.

Wallinger heard the door clunk shut behind him and looked back into the room. Landau had left his sunglasses on the farthest of the three beds. Wallinger crossed to the chest of drawers and checked the screen on his BlackBerry. Still no word from Istanbul; still no word from London. Where the hell was HITCHCOCK? The Mercedes was supposed to have crossed into Turkey no later than two o'clock; the three of them should have been in Van by now. Wallinger went back to the window and squinted over the telegraph poles, the pylons, and the crumbling apartment blocks of Dogubayazit. High above the mountains, an airplane was moving west to east in a cloudless sky, a silent white star skimming toward Iran.

Wallinger checked his watch. Five minutes past six. Landau had pushed the wooden table and the chair in front of the window; the last of his cigarettes was snuffed out in a scarred Efes Pilsen ashtray now bulging with yellowed filters. Wallinger tipped the contents out of the window and hoped that Landau would bring back some food. He was hungry and tired of waiting.

The BlackBerry rumbled on top of the chest of drawers; Wallinger's only means of contact with the outside world. He read the message.


VERTIGO IS ON AT 1750. GET THREE TICKETS.

It was the news he had been waiting for. HITCHCOCK and the courier had made it through the border at Gurbulak, on the Turkish side, at ten to six. If everything went according to plan, within half an hour Wallinger would have sight of the vehicle on the mountain road. From the chest of drawers he pulled out the British passport, sent by diplomatic bag to Ankara a week earlier. It would get HITCHCOCK through the military checkpoints on the road to Van; it would get him onto a plane to Ankara.

Wallinger sat on the middle of the three beds. The mattress was so soft it felt as though the frame was giving way beneath him. He had to steady himself by sitting farther back on the bed and was taken suddenly by a memory of Cecilia, his mind carried forward to the prospect of a few precious days in her company. He planned to fly the Cessna to Greece on Wednesday, to attend the Directorate meeting in Athens, then over to Chios in time to meet Cecilia for supper on Thursday evening.

The tickle of a key in the door. Landau came back into the room with two packets of Prestige filters and a plate of pide.

"Got us something to eat," he said. "Anything new?"

The pide was giving off a tart smell of warm curdled cheese. Wallinger took the chipped white plate and rested it on the bed.

"They made it through Gurbulak just before six."

"No trouble?" It didn't sound as though Landau cared much about the answer. Wallinger took a bite of the soft, warm dough. "Love this stuff," the American said, doing the same. "Kinda like a boat of pizza, you know?"

"Yes," said Wallinger.

He didn't like Landau. He didn't trust the operation. He no longer trusted the Cousins. He wondered if Amelia had been at the other end of the text, worrying about Shakhouri. The perils of a joint operation. Wallinger was a purist and, when it came to interagency cooperation, wished that they could all just keep themselves to themselves.

"How long do you think we'll have to wait?" Landau said. He was chewing noisily.

"As long as it takes."

The American sniffed, broke the seal on one of the packets of cigarettes. There was a beat of silence between them.

"You think they'll stick to the plan or come down on the one hundred?"

"Who knows?"

Wallinger stood at the window again, sighted the mountain through the binoculars. Nothing. Just a tank crawling across the plain: making a statement to the PKK, making a statement to Iran. Wallinger had the Mercedes license plate committed to memory. Shakhouri had a wife, a daughter, a mother sitting in an SIS-funded flat in Cricklewood. They had been waiting for days. They would want to know that their man was safe. As soon as Wallinger saw the vehicle, he would message London with the news.

"It's like clicking refresh over and over."

Wallinger turned and frowned. He hadn't understood Landau's meaning. The American saw his confusion and grinned through his thick brown beard. "You know, all this waiting around. Like on a computer. When you're waiting for news, for updates. You click refresh on the browser?"

"Ah, right." Of all people, at that moment Paul Wallinger thought of Tom Kell's cherished maxim: "Spying is waiting."

He turned back to the window.

Perhaps HITCHCOCK was already in Dogubayazit. The D100 was thick with trucks and cars at all times of the day and night. Maybe they'd ignored the plan to use the mountain road and come on that. There was still a dusting of snow on the peaks; there had been a landslide only two weeks earlier. American satellites had shown that the pass through Besler was clear, but Wallinger had come to doubt everything they told him. He had even come to doubt the messages from London. How could Amelia know, with any certainty, who was in the car? How could she trust that HITCHCOCK had even made it out of Tehran? The exfil was being run by the Cousins.

"Smoke?" Landau said.

"No, thanks."

"Your people say anything else?"

"Nothing."

The American reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone. He appeared to read a message, but kept the contents to himself. Dishonor among spies. HITCHCOCK was an SIS Joe, but the courier, the exfil, the plan to pick Shakhouri up in Dogubayazit and fly him out of Van, that was all Langley. Wallinger would happily have run the risk of putting him on a plane from Imam Khomeini to Paris and lived with the consequences. He heard the snap of the American's lighter and caught a backdraft of tobacco smoke, then turned to the mountains once again.

The tank had now parked at the side of the mountain road, shuffling from side to side, doing the Tiananmen twist. The gun turret swiveled northeast so that the barrel was pointing in the direction of Mount Ararat. Right on cue, Landau said: "Maybe they found Noah's Ark up there," but Wallinger wasn't in the mood for jokes.

Clicking refresh on a browser.

Then, at last, he saw it. A tiny bottle-green dot, barely visible against the parched brown landscape, moving toward the tank. The vehicle was so small it was hard to follow through the lens of the binoculars. Wallinger blinked, cleared his vision, looked again.

"They're here."

Landau came to the window. "Where?"

Wallinger passed him the binoculars. "You see the tank?"

"Yup."

"Follow the road up. ..."

"... Okay. Yeah. I see them."

Landau put down the binoculars and reached for the video camera. He flipped off the lens cap and began filming the Mercedes through the window. Within a minute, the vehicle was close enough to be picked out with the naked eye. Wallinger could see the car speeding along the plain, heading toward the tank. There was half a kilometer between them. Three hundred meters. Two.

Wallinger saw that the tank barrel was still pointing away from the road, up toward Ararat. What happened next could not be explained. As the Mercedes drove past the tank, there appeared to be an explosion in the rear of the vehicle that lifted up the back axle and propelled the car forward in a skid with no sound. The Mercedes quickly became wreathed in black smoke and then rolled violently from the road as flames burst from the engine. There was a second explosion, then a larger ball of flame. Landau swore very quietly. Wallinger stared in disbelief.

"What the hell happened?" the American said, lowering the camera.

Wallinger turned from the window.

"You tell me," he replied.

CHAPTER 2

Ebru Eldem could not remember the last time she had taken the day off. "A journalist," her father had once told her, "is always working." And he was right. Life was a permanent story. Ebru was always sniffing out an angle, always felt that she was on the brink of missing out on a byline. When she spoke to the cobbler who repaired the heels of her shoes in Arnavutkoy, he was a story about dying small businesses in Istanbul. When she chatted to the good-looking stallholder from Konya who sold fruit in her local market, he was an article about agriculture and economic migration within Greater Anatolia. Every number in her phone book — and Ebru reckoned she had better contacts than any other journalist of her age and experience in Istanbul — was a story waiting to open up. All she needed was the energy and the tenacity to unearth it.

For once, however, Ebru had set aside her restlessness and ambition and, in a pained effort to relax, if only for a single day, turned off her cell phone and set her work to one side. That was quite a sacrifice! From eight o'clock in the morning — the lie-in, too, was a luxury — to nine o'clock at night, Ebru avoided all e-mails and Facebook messages and lived the life of a single woman of twenty-nine with no ties to work and no responsibilities other than to her own relaxation and happiness. Granted, she had spent most of the morning doing laundry and cleaning up the chaos of her apartment, but thereafter she had enjoyed a delicious lunch with her friend Banu at a restaurant in Besiktas, shopped for a new dress on Istiklal, bought and read ninety pages of the new Elif Shafak novel in her favorite coffeehouse in Cihangir, then met Ryan for martinis at Bar Bleu.

In the five months that they had known one another, their relationship had grown from a casual, no-strings-attached affair to something more serious. When they had first met, their get-togethers had taken place almost exclusively in the bedroom of Ryan's apartment in Tarabya, a place where — Ebru was sure — he took other girls, but none with whom he had such a connection, none with whom he would be so open and raw. She could sense it not so much by the words that he whispered into her ear as they made love as by the way that he touched her and looked into her eyes. Then, as they had grown to know one another, they had spoken a great deal about their respective families, about Turkish politics, the war in Syria, the deadlock in Congress — all manner of subjects. Ebru had been surprised by Ryan's sensitivity to political issues, his knowledge of current affairs. He had introduced her to his friends. They had talked about traveling together and even meeting one another's parents.

Ebru knew that she was not beautiful — well, certainly not as beautiful as some of the girls looking for husbands and sugar daddies in Bar Bleu — but she had brains and passion, and men had always responded to those qualities in her. When she thought about Ryan, she thought about his difference from all the others. She wanted the heat of physical contact, of course — a man who knew how to be with her and how to please her — but she also craved his mind and his energy, the way he treated her with such affection and respect.

Today was a typical day in their relationship. They drank too many cocktails at Bar Bleu, went for dinner at Meyra, talked about books, the recklessness of Hamas and Netanyahu. Then they stumbled back to Ryan's apartment at midnight, fucking as soon as they had closed the door. The first time was in the lounge, the second time in his bedroom with the kilims bunched up on the floor and the shade still not fixed on the standing lamp beside the armchair. Ebru had lain there afterward in his arms, thinking that she would never want for another man. Finally she had found someone who understood her and made her feel entirely herself.

The smell of Ryan's breath and the sweat of his body were still all over Ebru as she slipped out of the building just after two o'clock, Ryan snoring obliviously. She took a taxi to Arnavutkoy, showered as soon as she was home, and climbed into bed, intending to return to work just under four hours later.


* * *

Burak Turan of the Turkish National Police reckoned you could divide people into two categories: those who didn't mind getting up early in the morning and those who did. As a rule for life it had served him well. The people who were worth spending time with didn't go to sleep straight after Muhtesem Yuzyil and jump out of bed with a smile on their face at half past six in the morning. You had to watch people like that. They were control freaks, workaholics, religious nuts. Turan considered himself to be a member of the opposite category of person: the type who liked to extract the best out of life; who was creative and generous and good in a crowd. After finishing work, for example, he liked to wind down with a tea and a chat at a club on Mantiklal. His mother, typically, would cook him dinner, then he'd head out to a bar and get to bed by midnight or one, sometimes later. Otherwise, when did people find the time to enjoy themselves? When did they meet girls? If you were always concentrating on work, if you were always paranoid about getting enough sleep, what was left to you? Burak knew that he wasn't the most hardworking officer in the barracks, happy to kill time while other, better-connected guys got promoted ahead of him. But what did he care about that? As long as he could keep the salary and the job, visit Cansu on weekends, and watch Galatasaray games at the Turk Telekom every second Saturday, he reckoned he had life pretty well licked.

But there were drawbacks. Of course there were. As he got older, he didn't like taking so many orders, especially from guys who were younger than he was. That happened more and more. A generation coming up behind him, pushing him out of the way. There were too many people in Istanbul; the city was so fucking crowded. And then there were the dawn raids, more and more of them in the last two years — a Kurdish problem, usually, but sometimes something different. Like this morning. A journalist, a woman who had written about Ergenekon or the PKK — Burak wasn't clear which — and word had come down to arrest her. The guys were talking about it in the van as they waited outside her apartment building. Cumhuriyet writer. Eldem. Lieutenant Metin, who looked like he hadn't been to bed in three days, mumbled something about "links to terrorism" as he strapped on his vest. Burak couldn't believe what some people were prepared to swallow. Didn't he know how the system worked? Ten to one Eldem had riled somebody in the AKP, and an Erdogan flunkie had spotted a chance to send out a message. That was how government people always operated. You had to keep an eye on them. They were all early risers.

Burak and Metin were part of a three-man team ordered to take Eldem into custody at five o'clock in the morning. They knew what was wanted. Make a racket, wake the neighbors, scare the blood out of her, drag the detainee down to the van. A few weeks ago, on the last raid they did, Metin had picked up a framed photograph in some poor bastard's living room and dropped it on the floor, probably because he wanted to be like the cops on American TV. But why did they have to do it in the middle of the night? Burak could never work that out. Why not just pick her up on the way to work, pay a visit to Cumhuriyet? Instead, he'd had to set his fucking alarm for half past three in the morning, show himself at the precinct at four, then sit around in the van for an hour with that weight in his head, the numb fatigue of no sleep, his muscles and his brain feeling soft and slow. Burak got tetchy when he was like that. Anybody did anything to rile him, said something he didn't like, if there was a delay in the raid or any kind of problem — he'd snap them off at the knees. Food didn't help, tea neither. It wasn't a blood sugar thing. He just resented having to haul his arse out of bed when the rest of Istanbul was still fast asleep.

"Time?" said Adnan. He was sitting in the driver's seat, too lazy even to look at a clock.

"Five," said Burak, because he wanted to get on with it.

"Ten to," said Metin. Burak shot him a look.

"Fuck it," said Adnan. "Let's go."


* * *

The first Ebru knew of the raid was a noise very close to her face, which she later realized was the sound of the bedroom door being kicked in. She sat up in bed — she was naked — and screamed, because she thought a gang of men were going to rape her. She had been dreaming of her father, of her two young nephews, but now three men were in her cramped bedroom, throwing clothes at her, shouting at her to get dressed, calling her a "fucking terrorist."

She knew what it was. She had dreaded this moment. They all did. They all censored their words, chose their stories carefully, because a line out of place, an inference here, a suggestion there, was enough to land you in prison. Modern Turkey. Democratic Turkey. Still a police state. Always had been. Always would be.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Colder War by Charles Cumming. Copyright © 2014 Charles Cumming. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

CHARLES CUMMING is the author of the first Thomas Kell book, A Foreign Country, as well as the New York Times bestselling thriller The Trinity Six, and others including A Spy by Nature and Typhoon. He lives with his family in London.

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A Colder War 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great spy novel. Intriguing characters and plot. Made me go back and read "A Foreign Land." Good stuff.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Modern espionage centered around Istanbul, with British, US and Russian spies. Fairly good until the last 10-20 pages where the author has the characters do completely idiotic things and react completely differently than they have through the book. Ruined it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ytff