Dead Spy Runningby Jon Stock
Daniel Marchant, a suspended MI6 officer, is running the London Marathon. He is also running out of time. A competitor is strapped with explosives, and if he drops his pace, everyone around him will be killed, including the U.S. ambassador to London.
Marchant tries to thwart the attack, but is he secretly working for the terrorists? There are/p>
Daniel Marchant, a suspended MI6 officer, is running the London Marathon. He is also running out of time. A competitor is strapped with explosives, and if he drops his pace, everyone around him will be killed, including the U.S. ambassador to London.
Marchant tries to thwart the attack, but is he secretly working for the terrorists? There are those who already suspect him of treachery. Just like they suspected his late father, the former head of MI6, who was removed from his job and accused of treason.
On the run from the CIA, Marchant is determined to prove his father's innocence. His quest to do so takes him from the streets of London to India, where the U.S. president is due for his first visit. Marchant soon finds that to clear his family's name he will have to expose a plot that could throw world politics into chaos.
In Dead Spy Running, Jon Stock delivers a breakneck thriller that updates the spy novel for the twenty-first century.
“As elegant as Le Carré and as cynical as the Twenty-First Century.” The Observer (UK)
“As strong as Bourne, as clever as Bond, but with a voice set for Generation Next, Jon Stock has done the impossible in Daniel Marchant and created THE new spy, a living, breathing human, whose own unpredictability suits perfectly our unpredictable world.'” Stephen Gaghan, Oscar-winning writer of Traffic
“Smart, classy, and relentlessly gripping, Dead Spy Running grabs the reader and doesn't let go. I couldn't quit turning the pages -- like Daniel Marchant running the London marathon, I couldn't stop.” Meg Gardiner, author of China Lake
“Dead Spy Running is a rip-roaring race of a read that never lets up until the finishing tape -- and a bit beyond.” Robert Goddard, author of Into the Blue
“An elegant, unstoppable front runner of a spy thriller.” The Observer (UK)
“The sophistication of John Le Carré or David Ignatius...this is a Jason Bourne sweat-fest with George Smiley's brain.” Daily Telegraph (UK)
“Protagonist Daniel Marchant is the perfect post-Bond spy.... Move over, Jason Bourne.” Bookpage
“Stock, a veteran British journalist with Indian experience, combines LeCarré-style cerebral gamesmanship and bureaucratic maneuvering with the best of thriller action in this character-driven spy novel. Stock's prose is swift and sure, his characters well drawn and the action twisty and relentless. Stock has brought the literary spy novel into the 21st century.” Portsmouth Herald
“Stock, a veteran British journalist with Indian experience, combines LeCarre-style cerebral gamesmanship and bureacratic maneuvering with the best of thriller action in this character-driven spy novel. . . . Stock has brought the literary spy novel into the 21st century.” Sea Coast Online
A discredited British spy seeks to rehabilitate himself and exonerate his deceased father—wrongly besmirched former head of MI6—while trotting the globe to escape the old man's enemies and prevent the new American president from being assassinated.
Daniel Marchant, the flawed 29-year-old MI6 veteran introduced in Stock's terrific third novel, is the ultimate odd man out. Not only is he not treated as a hero after preventing an Indian bomber from blowing up the American ambassador at a London marathon Marchant is running with his fellow spy and romantic partner, Leila, he is accused by his father's opponents in British and American intelligence of being part of the plot. Stephen Marchant was forced out on suspicions of arranging for the release of Salim Dhar, believed to be behind recent al-Qaeda attacks in England. On the run from bad guys and "good," Daniel is renditioned by the CIA and waterboarded in a secret facility in Poland, where his expertise on this form of torture comes in handy. On the loose again, he makes it to his boyhood home in India, where more violence and discoveries about his father, his girlfriend and Salim Dhar await. The book is a masterfully orchestrated page-turner in which the past, present and future collide in unsettling fashion. Marchant is not the most charismatic spy, at least not yet, but Stock's backstabbing agency bigwigs and functionaries are sharply drawn. And though the novel can be overly cinematic with its jump cuts and changing locales (it's being developed into a Hollywood film), it never loses its credibility or compromises its intelligence. The sex is good, too.
A welcome addition to contemporary spy fiction that conveys with riveting details the complexity of global terrorism.
Read an Excerpt
Dead Spy Running
By Jon Stock
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Jon Stock
All rights reserved.
A bright Blackheath morning and it was already hot, too hot for twenty-six miles. Daniel Marchant scanned the crowd and wondered again why he was about to run a marathon. Thousands of people were stretching in the early sunshine, massaging limbs, sipping at water. It was like the stillness before battle. A woman in a baseball cap strapped an iPod to her arm; the man beside him tied and retied his laces. Another runner poured water over his hair and shook it like a dog, droplets catching the light. Whatever it takes, Marchant thought. In his case, too much Scotch the night before and not enough training.
'One last try,' he said, turning to Leila. She was sitting on the grass, leaning back on her hands, staring straight ahead. Why was she taking it so seriously, he thought, as he strolled over to join a long queue for the Portaloos. If the going got tough, they could walk, enjoy the day out. Wasn't that how she had sold it to him? But he knew that would never happen: they would crawl before they walked. It was a stubbornness they shared, a bloody-mindedness he could sometimes do without.
He inched forward in the queue. The sweet smell of Deep Heat hung heavy in the spring air, reminding Marchant of school changing rooms, the similar imminence of pain. He always felt like this before they went out running in Battersea Park, only for his resentment to subside when the endorphins kicked in; that and the sound of her rhythmic breathing, her easy footfall. He still wondered why he was about to run twenty-six miles, though, and at such short notice. Their longest training run had been the weekend before, eighteen miles down the towpath to Greenwich and back. But how could he have said no when he barely realised she was asking him? That was her job, after all: persuading people to do what they shouldn't, to say what was meant to remain unsaid.
After queuing for five minutes, Marchant changed his mind and returned to Leila, who had stripped down to her running kit. From the day they had first met, he had promised himself not to fall in love with her, but she had never made it easy. Today was no exception. Her limbs were long, but she touched her toes with ease, shorts tightening against toned muscles. He looked away at the hot-air balloons behind her, swaying in the gentle breeze, desperate to rise up into the brilliant blue sky. In front of them lorries were parked up like a military convoy, piled high with runners' plastic bags, ready to be transported across London to the finish line.
Marchant took both their bags and handed them in to a marshal. He tried to imagine how he would feel when they were reunited with them again, three, more like four, hours later. Despite his protests, he knew that it was the right thing to be doing. The training, however inadequate, had kept him sane during the last few weeks, helping him to focus on what must be done.
'Too many people,' Leila said, pushing hair out of her eyes as Marchant rejoined her. He noticed she was holding her mobile phone. He followed her gaze over towards the main start, where an army of 35,000 runners was now massing. Afterwards, he thought, the dead and the wounded would be laid out in St James's, wrapped in shiny foil.
'It'll be fine, a stroll in the park,' Marchant said. 'Just like you promised.' He put a hand on her shoulder as he stretched one calf muscle, searching her large eyes. It was a hint of the exotic that had first attracted him, the dark, lustrous hair, her olive skin. 'You're not nervous, are you?' he asked, trying to sound bullish. There was suddenly something distracted about her, an unsettling distance. She was usually so upfront, eye to eye.
'Not about the running,' she said.
'Cheltenham picked up some chatter last night,' she said quietly, looking around.
'About the marathon?' Marchant kept his hand on her shoulder, face close to hers, stretching the other calf. Leila nodded. 'Now you tell me.'
'And you know I shouldn't,' she said, pushing him away. 'Paul's just called, heard I was taking part.'
'Paul? What's he monitoring these days? Runners' World chatrooms?'
'Come on, Daniel. You know I can't.'
Marchant had been out of MI6 for two months now, suspended on his case officer's full pay. Leila knew how angry he still felt about everything that had happened: his father's death, the rumours that wouldn't go away. She knew the toll it was taking on his health, too, the late, solitary vigils at the pub. Marchant's youthful features were tiring around the eyes, a greyness starting to fleck his dirt-blond hair. He was only twenty-nine, but sometimes, in a certain light, Leila looked at him and thought she saw his father.
'Remember not to go too fast at the beginning,' she said, changing tack as they jogged over to join the crowded start. Leila still worked for MI6, although she often wondered why. The Service was slowly killing them both.
'That shouldn't be a problem.' Marchant surveyed the sea of people around him, more carefully now. 'Remind me why we're doing this?'
'Because you love running and because you love me.' Leila brushed her lips against his cheek as a helicopter arced across the South London sky. 'More than you should.'
She had never kissed him like that before. Earlier she had woken him very differently, pulling him up through the languid hours of dawn with a passion that had almost frightened him.
'Shouldn't we be saving our energy for the marathon?' he had whispered afterwards, the rising sun filtering through the blinds of her Canary Wharf apartment. His eyes ached at the thought of all that daylight.
'My mother always told me to live each day as if it was the last.'
'My dad used to say something similar, only in Latin.'
She lay with her head on his chest, eyes open, stroking his stomach. A police siren faded somewhere near the Thames.
'I'm so sorry about your father.'
Later he had found her in the kitchen, stirring a saucepan of porridge for them both as she looked out of the window towards the O Dome. There was an empty bottle of whisky on the granite-top island, next to a couple of stacked dishes from the previous night and the remains of a big bowl of pasta. He pedalled the chrome bin and quietly slid the bottle in, his eyes on Leila. She was wearing knickers and an old London Marathon T-shirt with a slogan on the back: 'Never again ... until the next time'. The whisky had been a mistake, he realised that now. The next time he would realise earlier. The pain behind his eyes was spreading.
'What's this?' he asked, picking up a single sheet of paper from the island.
She turned, and then looked back out of the window. 'You've never really been religious, have you?' she asked.
'Hey, I was a Sufi once, in my year off in India.'
'Is this a Bahá'í thing?'
'It's not a thing, it's a prayer. My mother used to make me say it every morning, before I went to school.'
Leila wasn't particularly religious either, but she had grown interested in her mother's Bahá'í faith in recent months. Marchant's own knowledge of it was patchy, based on an internal MI5 briefing that had crossed his desk about Dr David Kelly, the weapons inspector and Bahá'í member who had been found dead in a wood in Oxfordshire.
He looked at the sheet again, and read a passage of the prayer out aloud: '"Armed with the power of thy name, nothing can ever hurt me, and with thy love in my heart, all the world's afflictions can in no wise alarm me." Is it reassuring?'
'She said it would protect us.'
Marchant thought he could do with a little protection now, as he looked up at the blur of helicopter blades above Blackheath. He suddenly felt claustrophobic, pressed down upon from above as well as from all sides. There was no room for personal space any more, normal rules of behaviour no longer applied. A runner next to him fumbled at his shorts with an empty plastic drinking bottle. Another hung his head, clearing one nostril, then the other. Somebody else yelled with joy (or was it fear?). The crowd responded, calling back like restless animals. They were all part of the larger herd now, surging forward as one towards the start line.
Marchant instinctively flexed his elbows as people pushed in, trampling on his old running shoes. For a few seconds he lost Leila, then he spotted her again, five yards ahead, turning back to look for him. Despite himself, he loved her more than ever in that fleeting moment, her beauty framed by a thousand strangers. He moved up alongside, squeezed her hand. She smiled back, but her look was far away. The call from Paul Myers had unsettled her.
Above them two helicopters now circled, the drone of their blades more menacing than ever. There was a new sound, too, top notes cutting through the background noise. Marchant couldn't work out what it was at first, but then he realised. Runners everywhere were synchronising and calibrating, making final adjustments to their bleeping stopwatches and heart monitors. He glanced instinctively at the hands of his own silent watch. In the same instant, the starter's klaxon hooted, oddly hesitant, an uncertain call to arms. The only thing Marchant could do was run.
It was fifty minutes into the marathon that Marchant first noticed him, tucked behind a small knot of runners twenty yards ahead. The man – Asian, mid-thirties, fragile frame, heavy glasses – was moving at a similar pace to them, but looked uncomfortable, stumbling on the cobbles as he rounded the bow of the Cutty Sark. He was sweating profusely, too, even for this heat; but it was the belt around his waist that had caught Marchant's well-trained eye.
Leila's talk of Cheltenham had put Marchant on edge, reawakening old skills. The world around him was suddenly full of threats again, of brush passes and dead drops, and the belt troubled him. It consisted of a number of pouches, each one containing an isotonic energy drink. The drinks were in soft, bulging cartons, silver with small orange screwcaps. He'd seen other runners loading up with drinks belts at the start, but none with so many pouches.
It was just a precaution on a hot day, Marchant told himself, lengthening his stride. Running had always come naturally to him, a benefit of being tall. He caught up with the group as they left Greenwich for Deptford, heading down Creek Road. The crowds were thinner here, but still noisy, heckling runners with the names they had written on their vests. 'Where's Grommit?' someone shouted, as a fun-runner dressed as Wallace ran past. 'Go Dan!' two young women screamed. For a moment, Marchant thought they must be supporting someone else, but then he remembered Leila had insisted on writing 'Dan' on the front of his own running vest. He turned his head to take another look but they were already lost in the crowd, cheering on other strangers.
'What are you doing?' Leila called out from behind Marchant. 'We were doing fine.'
'Give me a minute,' he said. The group of runners ahead of the man also bothered him. Two were heavily set, struggling in the heat and bearing all the unsubtle hallmarks – bulging vests, GI One haircuts – of the American Secret Service. The third man was lean and sinewy, a born runner. He looked familiar.
As Marchant drew near, he knew at once that something was not right. He could taste it in his mouth, like corked wine. His father had always taught him to trust his instinct, whether it was a bad feeling on first meeting a potential agent or pulling out of a rendezvous for no other reason than that it felt wrong. It wasn't tradecraft; it was more visceral than that.
Marchant positioned himself as close as he could behind the man, trying to get a better look at the belt, but the running field was still tightly packed. He counted six drinks pouches. They were eight miles into a hot race, but none of the pouches had been opened.
Then he noticed what looked like an oversized watch on the man's wrist. Leila had something similar for long runs. It was a basic GPS receiver, relaying her position, speed and when she should speed up or slow down. (He remembered how she had once said it beeped ruthlessly at her when her pace dropped below a pre-programmed speed.) It wasn't as sophisticated as the military units he and other case officers had been issued with in Africa, but it wasn't a toy either.
'What's happening?' Leila said, appearing on his shoulder. 'We were going so well.'
Marchant nodded at the man in front and slowed up a little, falling away from the group.
'See the guy with the belt,' he said, as they both slowed to their former pace. Marchant was short of breath as he continued. 'I don't think those cartons are for drinking.'
'Why not?' Leila asked.
'And that man up there, the tall one all in white. Isn't he the US Ambassador?'
'Turner Munroe? Dan, what's going on?'
Marchant knew what Leila was thinking. He was deluded, still drunk from the night before, seeing things where there was nothing to see. He'd watched it himself in other case officers who had been called in from the field and tethered to a desk in Legoland (the name employees had given to MI6's headquarters in Vauxhall), drinking themselves to death to alleviate the boredom of captivity. In his case, though, he didn't even have a desk. That was the hardest part: knowing there might never be a way back. And now here he was, hard on the heels of a runner in the London Marathon, convinced that the man was shortly to kill himself and everyone around him, including the US Ambassador to Britain. He'd run agents who were less paranoid.
'What exactly did Cheltenham pick up last night?' Marchant asked, breathlessly.
'Nothing like this.' He guessed Leila was already making her own calculations, weighing up risks. 'How can you be so sure about the belt?'
'By asking him,' Marchant replied.
'Don't be stupid, Dan.'
'For a drink.'
Marchant ignored her and moved towards the runner again, pulling up alongside. The man was clearly in trouble. Sweat was pouring off him as his head bobbed like a donkey's.
'Hot one,' Marchant said. The man glanced at him nervously and looked ahead again, wiping his thick eyebrows with the back of his hand. 'Did you see that last drinks station?' Marchant continued. 'Crazy. Shouldn't have to queue for water, not on a day like this.' Marchant smiled at the man, nodding towards his belt. Inside, his stomach turned. He was right. 'Couldn't have one of yours, could I?'
'Who are you?' the man said aggressively. His accent was thick, from India: another cell from the subcontinent. Marchant knew immediately there would be consequences, for him, for his father, but they would have to wait.
'No problem. Any idea who that is?' Marchant gestured at the US Ambassador. 'Brought his own fan club with him.'
'Please, stay away,' the man said.
The two of them ran on in silence. Marchant's mind was racing. Post 7/7, it was bulky clothing that had attracted attention. Here was a man wearing explosives on the outside, and it was so bloody bold no one had noticed. The pouches must be wired together inside the belt, he thought. But if the man was a running bomb, why hadn't he blown himself up by now? Why was he warning him to stay away? And if his target was the Ambassador, he could easily have bunched in close to him and his babysitters and taken them all out before now.
He remembered the last suicide bomber he had seen, in Mogadishu. They had been talking in the marketplace, making nervous progress. Then a phone rang. Twice. Marchant had run for his life. The man's head was found on the corrugated-iron roof of a nearby café. The bomber hadn't wanted to die, Marchant was sure of that. Afterwards, in the British Embassy bar, as his hand shook the Johnnie Walker out of his glass, he kept telling himself, over and over, that the bomber had not wanted to die. It had made it easier to understand. The handler knew it too, which is why he had detonated the bomb himself.
This time, he had to keep his man talking, establish the method of detonation, hope the mobile networks would be too busy for a phone call from a third party. Like the bomber in Mogadishu, this man was also not a volunteer. He had been forced to wear the belt. It was happening more and more these days: genuine suicide bombers were becoming hard to find. Trust your gut feeling, his father had said.
'That watch you've got there,' Marchant said. 'GPS?'
'Sat-Runner,' the man replied. Better, Marchant thought, much better; a gear and gadgets man.
'Useful piece of kit.'
Excerpted from Dead Spy Running by Jon Stock. Copyright © 2009 Jon Stock. 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
JON STOCK, a former Delhi correspondent, works for the London Daily Telegraph, writes a column for the Week Magazine in India, and has contributed to BBC Radio. He is married, with three children, and lives in Wiltshire, UK.
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So, we are all hearing about how this 2009 British spy thriller has a Baha'i Faith subplot, and I have a new Nook, and it was way too easy to download and jump in and read. It is a spy thriller in the mode of La Carre or the Bourne books, terse, fast paced, and written in the present day. This is a book written by a British author for a British audience, so there are a few words and word usages that might be new to the U.S. reader. My Nook has a dictionary that allows me to just press a word for a definition. There's a little sex and a little torture, but not enough to keep you up nights, either way. It is very much spy vs. spy, being a competition between the M15, M16 and CIA, but the author worked very hard to make it feel as accurate as possible in the settings. As for the Baha'i subplot: First, you can tell that the author really did his research. There's nothing there to make you wince, nothing that's inaccurate, and twice he does heartfelt excerpts from the Baha'i Writings. You don't meet a character who is a practicing Baha'i and that's too bad, because you could have a lot of fun with that. As a Baha'i reader, it is natural to want to "fill in the blanks." The imagination runs wild. Because the plot has a lot of back story and flashbacks, you keep hoping that one of those really smart spy people would think to ring up a Baha'i professor in a university somewhere and get some facts. In one plot point a Persian British Baha'i goes back to Iran for retirement, which I think would be very hard to do these days, but maybe not. I also find it very hard to believe that when it comes to the Baha'is in Iran, that there is not someone in the British spy agencies who has this portfolio and can speak about it in the present tense. But this is a novel, this is a novel, this is a novel. The squeal factor is that, when all the action moves to India, the current President of the United States is making a formal visit to the Lotus Temple, meeting Baha'i officials there, takes a tour inside, all to make a point about the persecutions in Iran. Let's make one thing perfectly clear. Barack would not visit the Temple without Michelle. But other than that, the scene seems plausible, maybe. I'm trying to imagine what Fox News would make of our current president visiting a Baha'i Temple, in India. This book is the first of a trilogy following one specific spy and his troubles and travails. You can follow this character on Twitter as MarchantM16 and that should be fun. So, maybe So, maybe, in future books, the Baha'i/Iran plot will thicken. Especially since in an interview the author said that he was so interested in his Baha'i study that he had to pull back from writing a Baha'i thriller. This occurs to me because he makes one, very big, major error. His character with a Baha'i mother (but who is not a Baha'i herself) gives the impression that she is alone in the world, and does not have a huge extended Persian/Baha'i family with multiples of cousins that live all over the world. Sure, we know how likely that would be!
Thirty-five thousand runners are testing for the London Marathon. Two of them work for M16 though Agent Daniel is on suspension at full pay; the other is girlfriend Leila who worries about her lover's mental health since his father's death. However, just prior to the start, another operative Myers called Leila with a warning that electronic chatter says something is going to happen at the event. About fifty minutes into the race, Daniel notices an Asian runner wearing a belt who seems out of place. He further sees two obvious American Secret service agents with another participant who he thinks is the U.S. Ambassador Munroe. He realizes the Asian is wearing a bomb. He learns the Asian is Pradeep from India and terrorists kidnapped his son with the admonition do the mission if you want your offspring to live. The bomb is defused, but Daniel is under suspicion as a terrorist. Dead Spy Running is a superb espionage thriller, which contains the usual suspects of foreign agents and internal moles. However, what makes the story line super is rivalry between M16 and the CIA, M16 and M15, and the CIA and the Secret Service as each agency fails to work together, but instead prefers front dog status even if it causes problems for their respective country. Fans will appreciate Jon Stock's strong run. Harriet Klausner