Book Review: Capitol Spy

With all my reviews I like to try and summarise the book I’ve just read, but that’s easier said than done for Capitol Spy … there’s just so much happening.  In a good way.  From the very first page, to the very last the action is nail-biting, gripping and nonstop. For anybody who’s exhausted all the decent dramas on Netflix etc, this series is a must-read.

contemporary fiction | thriller | crime

Rating: 4 out of 5.

the blurb

Novak and Mitchell are close to exposing a Russian spy in Congress. But a ruthless assassin and a deep-state organization will do anything to stop them.

In Washington, D.C., Russian reporter Andrei Rublov has uncovered the biggest story of his career: a US congressman is spying for the Kremlin. But before Rublov can reveal who, he dies in a seemingly tragic accident.

As Tom Novak and Stella Mitchell investigate, a woman from Novak’s past offers a chance at breaking the story. But now Russia’s ruthless FSB have her in their sights, and time is running out.

With a powerful deep-state organization pulling strings across the globe, and an expert assassin closing in, Novak and Mitchell must lay everything on the line to identify the mole – and unlock a conspiracy decades in the making.

Take a deep breath and hold on for Capitol Spy’s breathless action sequences and rollercoaster twists in Novak and Mitchell’s most personal investigation so far.

Author Andrew Raymond | Published independently in July 2019 | Pages290 (kindle)

my thoughts

Capitol Spy is the second book in the high-octane Novak and Mitchell trilogy. By way of a quick re-cap, Tom Novak and Stella Mitchell are reporters at The Republic, an outspoken news publication based in New York.  The pair are the paper’s star reporters, and in the previous book – Official Secrets – they found themselves investigating a conspiracy that saw Downing Street blown up, the PM assassinated, and an unknown puppeteer in the American government.  Exposing conspiracies of this magnitude makes them pretty unpopular, and they find themselves fearing for their own lives as well as those of their sources.  You can read my (spoiler-free) review of Official Secrets here.

We re-join the pair in book #2 just as the dust is starting to settle in the wake of the Downing Street story.  Loose ends are being tidied up, but instead of closing this embarrassing political chapter down, the housekeeping exercise stirs up another hornets’ nest. 

Rebecca Fox, newly appointed director of Ghost Division, is leading the war against corruption in the UK’s intelligence services – MI6, MI5 and GCHQ. She’s the new PM’s golden girl but she’s not immune to the shady machinations of corrupt officials, and her investigations have rattled cages in high places. Overnight, Rebecca finds herself a person of interest, deserted by her deputy director, framed in a Russian-spy conspiracy, and wanted for questioning by Special Branch.

Meanwhile, a clandestine deep-state organisation called the Hilderberg Group is on the cusp of placing ‘their man’ into one of the world’s most powerful offices; the office of US President.  Their exclusive cabal is a gathering of some of the world’s most powerful players, with seemingly limitless resources and an uncompromising approach to damage control.  And now it seems they’re just days away from getting their hands on a code that’ll cement their global control; a code written decades earlier by Stanley Fox, a gifted GCHQ cryptologist who reportedly died years ago in a hospital fire.

In a twist that’s not a million miles away from our current reality, the Russians have their own ideas about the US presidential elections; an opinion that doesn’t match that of the Hilderberg Group. They’d also rather like to have that encryption code themselves … or at the very least, prevent the Americans from having it. 

And so begins an explosive, global game of cat and mouse.  From London to Washington, Moscow to Germany’s Black Forest, New York to Geneva and Paris, the race is on for Novak and Mitchell to uncover the Kremlin’s mole in Congress before the FSB’s assassin can close down all their lines of enquiry with unflinching finality. But Novak’s attention isn’t entirely on the story this time; his ex-fiancé, Natalya, has been in touch, fearing for her life because of her role in this political exposé.  Did I mention that Natalya is Russian?

When I read book #1, Official Secrets, it was impossible to ignore Andrew Raymond’s talent for writing utterly breathtaking car chases; his ability to recreate speed and power on paper is second to none.  Capitol Spy opens with a nail-biting chase through the streets of Washington – it had me paying full attention from the very start.  Such is his talent for these road-based scenes, the author even manages to create a hugely dramatic and suspenseful sequence in the stationary traffic of a New York rush hour! The drama isn’t limited to American roads though; there’s a superbly choreographed chase through the streets and backroads of Moscow that’s as vivid as any big screen movie, not to mention the pursuit through Moscow’s stunning underground stations. 

Also consistent with book #1 is the cast of likeable and engaging main characters, an array of politicians who’ll raise your hackles, and some brutally cruel assassins and agents.  No matter how each character makes you feel, they’re all written with a clarity that leaps out at you from the page.   It was good to learn a bit more about Novak’s history this time, and readers of Official Secrets will also be pleased to see that SSO Walter Sharp from the CIA is still in the game.  As well as his all-in-a-day’s-work heroics, Sharp’s character becomes embroiled in a brilliantly graphic fight scene in a Black Forest hotel kitchen – who knew that pans of potatoes, baking trays, paprika and olive oil could be as effective against a lethal assassin as the more obvious array of Wüsthof pro kitchen knives?

For anybody who’s exhausted all the decent dramas on Netflix etc, this series is a MUST.  The heady mix of politics, media, corruption, spies and assassins is as binge-worthy as all the best box-sets, and the jaw-dropping twist at the end of Capitol Spy will have you racing to get your hands on book #3, Traitor Games.

Capitol Spy is available now from Amazon in paperbacked e-book formats. If you’re a fan of the BBC’s Line of Duty or if you read and loved I Am Pilgrim, then this is the series for you!

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