Praise for Jack of Spies
A Seattle Times Best Mystery of 2014
An IndieNext Selection June 2014
A PW Top 10: Mysteries & Thrillers Pick for Spring 2014
A Library Journal Editor's Pick for Spring 2014
A Deadly Pleasures Best Book of 2014
"[Downing] is a master at bringing the past to life through the careful and often loving observation of even minor players and through the artful deployment of specific detail. In addition, Jack McColl's debut has a zest, an exoticism and a joie de vivre well-suited to an era when best sellers were being written by Zane Grey, suffragettes were demanding the vote, and opium parlors were a readily accessible temptation."
—Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal
"Moves along briskly and offers interesting facts about events now a century past. It’s always entertaining."
—The Washington Post
"When his “innocent” data-gathering escalates into knife fights and arrest warrants, McColl finds himself in an advanced game of espionage he hadn’t intended on playing. I can already see Gerard Butler in the lead role of the film version of this book."
“[Downing] is smart and erudite, with a knack for fully rounded characters and atmospheric but unfussy prose . . . a ripping good tale.”
—The Seattle Times
"Already had aficionados reaching for new adjectives to praise the author."
—The Independent (UK)
"Downing, a fiendish researcher, does a believable job of inserting McColl into real life events, and the result is a novel marked by surprising adventures of an oddly amiable sort."
"Downing seamlessly moves from Ian Flemming adventure to John le Carré politics across the broad canvas of a particular time period, never losing the intimacy with his characters."
—MysteryPeople Bookstore, Austin
"As McColl travels the globe, Downing deftly depicts the complex prelude to World War I a web of unrest that connects German coal-hoarding in China, anti-imperialist protests in India, and labor strife in New Jersey, among other seemingly disparate tensions . . . It’s fun to watch the novice spy learn his craft."
—The Onion A.V. Club
"Jack of Spies is lush with details about not only China and the U.S., but also England, Ireland, and even Mexico . . . with an urbane operative who is sure to be a hit with readers."
—The Denver Post
"A powerhouse of a series debut . . . Think Raiders of the Lost Ark as told by John le Carré. The book is just damn fun."
"As I was reading, I kept thinking this novel would be terrific theatre—Masterpiece, that is."
"A nice introduction to Jack [McColl] and His Majesty’s Service."
—Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
"A captivating, intelligent new World War I espionage tale by British author David Downing melds accurate historical detail with intricately crafted plotlines as it transports readers from China to San Francisco, Britain and beyond."
"[McColl] is a winsome companion, which bodes well for the future of this new series. I, for one, am already eager for the next installment."
—John Wilson, Books & Culture
"Just what we were waiting to read at the start of the summer."
"Few other contemporary writers meld history and espionage quite like David Downing."
"Some of the best and most involving espionage novels aren’t about super-spys, the James Bonds, but about ordinary people caught up in circumstances beyond their control. And that is what Downing does in Jack of Spies."
—Oline Cogdill, Mystery Scene Magazine
"Highly recommended for readers of spy novels like John le Carré as well as fans of historical thrillers, like The Meaning of Night and The Alienist."
—The Brooklyn Daily
"[A] master of the genre . . . Downing is capable of wringing more suspense out of a simple cat-and-mouse chase played out in a train yard than some of his better-known contemporaries can with a squadron of troubled covert-ops agents. That quality alone makes Downing and Jack of Spies a joy to read."
"An attractive prospect for summer reading. More than that, however, it is a sound beginning for what looks to develop into an important series. Astute readers will want to be in at the start."
—Reviewing The Evidence
"Those who already know Downing's craft realize his deft hand with romantic passion and delicately portrayed merging of lust and love—and like the 'Station' series, Jack of Spies includes a serious affair of the heart."
"Realistic espionage (for once!), a deep feel for its period, an emphasis on the shock of the new that must have been felt at the development of world-shaking technology in the early twentieth century, a likeable and believable protagonist with enough of a personal life to ground him . . . I'm very much looking forward to the second installment."
"The talented Downing is off and running once again."
"This first installment of a proposed series moves deliberately but colorfully, with intelligent prose and a strong period feel."
"Fans of Downing’s previous spy tales will not be disappointed with this excellent series launch that is full of rich historical and cultural details, revealed as his protagonist learns the espionage business on the eve of World War I."
“Vividly explores the worldwide intrigues that spawned World War I, through the all-too-human British spy Jack McColl and the lover he betrays.”
—Francine Mathews, author of Jack 1939
"It would already be enough that Jack of Spies is a taut, highly intelligent spy thriller without it being a brilliant historical portrait and a captivating love story to boot. A remarkably engaging world tour of pre-World War One espionage featuring an honorable protagonist begging for a long series."
—Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham
Praise for David Downing's John Russell World War II Thriller series
"Epic in scope, Mr. Downing's "Station" cycle creates a fictional universe rich with a historian's expertise but rendered with literary style and heart."
—The Wall Street Journal
“A beautifully crafted and compelling thriller with a heart-stopping ending . . . An unforgettable read.”
—Charles Todd, author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge Series
"Downing's outstanding evocation of the times (as masterly as that found in Alan Furst's novels or Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series), thematic complexity (as rich as that of John le Carré), and the wide assortment of fully rendered characters provide as much or more pleasure than the plot, where disparate threads are tied together in satisfying and unexpected ways."
—Library Journal, Starred Review
“Downing is brilliant at weaving history and fiction . . . equally clever and unexpected.”
—Toronto Globe and Mail
British author Downing’s engaging if slow-moving first in a WWI-era spy series introduces Jack McColl, a globe-trotting Scottish car salesman moonlighting as a British agent. Months before August 1914, McColl is trying to sell his company’s luxury car, the Maia, in China—and sniffing around for clues as to what the Germans and the Chinese are up to for his British government handlers back in London. He and Caitlin Hanley, a beautiful American journalist he meets in Peking, embark on a round-the-world journey that takes them to San Francisco and on to New York. Later, McColl heads to Mexico, and finally to Britain. Along the way, he survives a stabbing, falls in love, and tracks a German spy, gathering intelligence on a variety of revolutionary movements. Fans of Downing’s WWII-era spy series that concluded with Masaryk Station will appreciate the author’s command of history and period detail, though some may find the book reads more like a travelogue than a thriller. Agent: Charlie Viney, Viney Agency. (May)
Known for his John Russell espionage series set in World War II Berlin (Masaryk Station), Downing begins a new historical series featuring Scottish car salesman Jack McColl. McColl's affinity for languages and a job that takes him around the globe make it possible for him to covertly collect intelligence for His Majesty's Navy. It's 1913, and the world is on the brink of war, escalating McColl's spy duties and danger quotient. He makes his way from China to the United States and Mexico, then back to Europe as he chases German spies and their conspirators and falls in love with Caitlin Hanley, a spirited Irish American journalist, whose brother may be involved in a plot against the British. Now McColl will have to choose between love and country as he arrives in Ireland and tries to stop an explosive plan that could cost many lives. VERDICT Fans of Downing's previous spy tales will not be disappointed with this excellent series launch that is full of rich historical and cultural details, revealed as his protagonist learns the espionage business on the eve of World War I. [Previewed in Editors' Spring Picks, LJ 2/15/13, p. 28.]—MelissaDeWild, Kent District Lib., Comstock Park, MI
A rookie spy gets in over his head when he's forced to choose between his assignment and the dynamic woman he's fallen for. It's 1913, and for the past few years, Scottish car dealer Jack McColl has folded small missions for the nascent British Intelligence Service into his overseas business trips. The income rarely covers more than travel expenses, but the work definitely makes his travels more interesting. Two new elements change the equation on his latest excursion from Tsingtau, China, to Shanghai to San Francisco and, ultimately, New York. Political tensions have been accelerated by the looming European war, making China far less safe, and McColl finds surprising romance with Caitlin Hanley, a vibrant young American journalist. They meet in Peking, and though McColl continues with his espionage commitments, he can't get her off his mind. When they meet again, they rekindle their affair, fueled by an ardor the time apart has triggered. But Cumming, the British naval officer who employs McColl, and Rainer von Schön, a German engineer with whom he trades information, are less than thrilled that he has Caitlin in tow. Her intrusive questions turn von Schön icy. In San Francisco, McColl is briefed by Jatish, an undercover agent who's later murdered. Could McColl himself have been the intended victim?This first installment of a proposed series by the author of the six John Russell novels (Masaryk Station, 2013, etc.) moves deliberately but colorfully, with intelligent prose and a strong period feel.