Old Flames (Inspector Troy Series)

Old Flames (Inspector Troy Series)

3.5 8
by John Lawton
     
 

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"It is April 1956 at the height of the Cold War: Khrushchev and Bulganin, leaders of the Soviet Union, are in Britain on an official visit. Chief Inspector Troy of Scotland Yard, son of a distinguished Russian emigre, is assigned to be Khrushchev's bodyguard and to spy on him. Soon after, a Royal Navy diver is found dead and mutilated beyond recognition in Portsmouth… See more details below

Overview

"It is April 1956 at the height of the Cold War: Khrushchev and Bulganin, leaders of the Soviet Union, are in Britain on an official visit. Chief Inspector Troy of Scotland Yard, son of a distinguished Russian emigre, is assigned to be Khrushchev's bodyguard and to spy on him. Soon after, a Royal Navy diver is found dead and mutilated beyond recognition in Portsmouth Harbor. What was he doing under the hull of Khrushchev's ship and who sent him there? Is the corpse that of Arnold Cockerell, a furniture salesman with a mysterious source of income and a bizarre fetish for scuba gear, or did Cockerell fake his own death to escape an unknown nemesis? And what did Khrushchev mean when he leaned over at the dinner table and whispered, "Do It"?" Troy embarks on an investigation that takes him to the rotten heart of MI6, to the distant days of his childhood, and into the dangerous arms of an old flame, Larissa Tosca, late of the U.S Army, later still of Khrushchev's KGB. As the mystery of Cockerell deepens - was he a spy or a red herring? agent or double agent? - inexplicable murders begin following Troy wherever he goes, and now they are getting closer and closer to home.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Third-timer Lawton (1963; Black Out) breathes new life into an increasingly creaky genre with this complex, evocative tale that's part Cold War thriller, part whodunit and part olde English lament. Reprising his role as a Russian aristoi-cum-Scotland Yard shamus, Freddie Troy returns from Black Out's wartime fog to the dreary 1956 London of Guy Burgess and Kim Philby, where the visiting Nikita Khrushchev is cheerfully threatening nuclear annihilation. Given his Russian background, Troy is roped into an official-escort-and-spy-while-you're-at-it routine. The Russian leader gets uncomfortably pally with Troy as they tour the city, giving him a secret code word for shadow correspondence; Troy is just beginning to feel relieved at Khrushchev's departure when the decomposed body of an English frogman who allegedly spied on Khrushchev's ship turns up. The pursuit of an insignificant spy killer leads Troy into a maze of double agents, money laundering and murder, not to mention possible corruption inside Scotland Yard and both MI5 and MI6. Along the way, the author cleverly uses his protagonist and a motley crew of secondaries to meditate on WWII nostalgia ("They remember all that was bad about it and go on celebrating it. And the good stuff... the way you class-conscious bastards pulled together... all that's forgotten. You used to know you were all in the same boat, now you don't even think you're on the same river") and the settling chill of the Cold War (" `The Bomb' was `THE BOMB'. Not HE or incendiary, not 500lb or ton, but megatons-a word still virtually incomprehensible to most people, often paraphrased in multiples of Hiroshima: twenty Hiroshimas; fifty Hiroshimas"). Lawton has created an effective genre-bending novel that is at once a cerebral thriller and an uproarious, deliciously English spoof. Agent, Clare Alexander, Gillon Aitken Associates, London. (Jan.) Forecast: While this thriller may be too tongue-in-cheek for some readers, Anglophiles will eat it up.
Kirkus Reviews
A Cold War thriller that bids fair to catapult its author (Black Out, 1995) into le Carré/Furst territory. It's 1956. Chief Inspector Frederick Troy, of Scotland Yard, has the unenviable assignment of shepherding and translating for Nikita Khrushchev and his entire entourage during their visit to London. Troy, who emigrated to England from the Soviet Union as a child, can't shake off memories of his WWII espionage assignments or the cruel suspicion that his father was a spy and traitor. Though Winston Churchill makes an amusing cameo, shuffling by Troy with the words "Harumgrrum werrumbrum," the Khrushchev visit is mostly just a curtain-raiser for the main mystery that kicks off when a navy diver's mutilated body is found in Portsmouth Harbour. Evidence indicates that it's retired Lieutenant Arnold Cockerell. Cockerell's wife insists that the corpse isn't her husband's, though she can't explain his apparent disappearance. When it's determined that Cockerell is, or was, a spy, the mystery deepens beyond identification of the body. Which side was he working for? The case turns out to have more layers than an onion. There'll be additional victims, a duplicitous mistress, and the shadow of Khrushchev looming over everyone. Throughout it all, Troy's personal life provides considerable distraction and enrichment. His dangerous old flame, a former KGB agent named Larissa Tosca, appears unannounced on his doorstep. (How dangerous is she? Lawton provides an early glimpse of her seducing an enemy, then breaking his member.) His wild sister Sasha needs constant monitoring, and his bourgeois-assimilated brother Rod abhors Troy's involvement in a case with so many echoes of their past. Lawton'sbrooding, sophisticated prose effectively captures a troubled era. Peopled by flawed adults struggling to know and act on the truth in a time of moral turmoil, Old Flames is unforgettable.
From the Publisher

"As good as Le Carré."-Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune

"Uncommonly smart and engrossing . . . If you yearn for stylish, sophisticated, suspenseful fiction, you need look no further."-The Washington Post

"Le Carré/Furst territory . . . Unforgettable."-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Anyone with an appreciation for the details of the Cold War has to marvel at a book that features Scotland Yard, Nikita Krushchev, Guy Burgess, and a money-laundering scheme centered on Swedish modernist furniture."-Entertainment Weekly

“A smart, well-crafted, very British book, and Troy is a shrewd and irreverent policeman.. . . . If Troy is the character at the heart of this novel, its soul is England as it was during the Cold War years, a country fueled by paranoia and espionage, overrun with agents and counter-agents, caught up, as Troy says, in ‘an age that specialized in thinking the unthinkable.’”-USA Today

“Lawton, who has a delightful way with metaphor, sprinkles his yarn with a variety of names that have long lain dormant in our American memories. . . . Winston Churchill makes a priceless appearance. . . . Troy is exquisitely drawn. He’s a cynic at heart not because of any dour view of humanity, but because he’s not at home in Britain or the Soviet Union.”—The Boston Globe

“Some books are at least as important to life as eating. . . . Old Flames is a book that I would forgo eating to read again. . . . Convoluted without being complicated and fast paced while remaining completely believable, Old Flames is the consummate novel about the Cold War.”—The Rocky Mountain News

“Mesmerizing. . . . Dryly funny, smartly written, slightly macabre and richly evocative of its Cold War setting. Lawton’s got a knack for nuanced character.” —The Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer

“A rich mixture of political intrigue and old-fashioned mayhem. . . . Tangled webs of deceit are standard in mysteries, but British author John Lawton takes the idea to nearly Shakespearean heights.”—Baltimore Sun

“Scorchingly clever. . . . An intriguing synthesis of genres. . . . Part Len Deighton, part John le Carré, part P.D. James, and all original. Lawton paints a vivid background of time and place, populates it with unusual and interesting people . . . and entangles them in a deliciously intricate game of life, death, betrayals and lies, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. The result is a ripping good read that celebrates two 20th-century British literary traditions propelling them into the 21st century.”—CNN.com

“[A] complex, evocative tale. . . . Lawton has created an effective genre-bending novel that is at once a cerebral thriller and an uproarious, deliciously English spoof.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A splash of Greene, a twist of Deighton, a small measure of history—Lawton has produced a thrilling cocktail. . . . The cast of characters—both borrowed and invented—is as rich, rounded and eccentrically plausible as any in recent thriller fiction. Great stuff.”—The Times (London)

“An early candidate for Thumping Good Thriller of the Year . . . No angst, no darkness, just the joy of a plot racing along in overdrive.”—Time Out (London)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142003732
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
12/30/2003
Series:
Inspector Troy Series, #2
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
544
Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 6.84(h) x 0.97(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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