Written by Jeremy Duns

Review written by Philip Gooden

His historical novels include the Nick Revill series, set in Elizabethan London, a Victorian sequence, and a series of Chaucer mysteries, now in in e-books.

Simon & Schuster
RRP: £7.99
Released: 12th April 2012
Pbk Original

It’s the autumn of 1969 with Nixon in the White House and Brezhnev running the Politburo. There’s been a chemical attack on two Russian bases in the Baltic, and nuclear-armed B52s are flying towards the borders of the USSR.

If this isn’t the beginning of war, it is sufficiently close to it to panic the Soviets into starting their own countdown. But what if the chemical attack is an accidental leak of mustard gas from a sunk WW2 U-boat? What if the advancing bombers are just a provocative exercise by the Yanks?

In the third of Jeremy Duns’ retro 60s spy thrillers, Paul Dark has a few hours literally to save the world from Armageddon. Dark is a long-time mole in the British Secret Service, with scores to settle against both his sneering Brit bosses and his Soviet handlers. In addition he has to break out of custody in Moscow, rub shoulders with the famous traitor Donald Maclean, flee to the Finnish border, reach the drowned sub, find the gas canisters, and get the truth out to a world on the brink, all the while accompanied by fellow-agent and lover Sarah Severn. Does he succeed? Well, we’re all still here ...

Duns has done plenty of research for The Moscow Option, which ends with 20 pages of notes and a book-list. Since parts of the novel are apparently true, it uncovers one of those close-shave moments in the Cold War. The trouble for me is that Paul Dark is a Bond/Bourne clone without much individuality, and in fact quite a few other characters are close to caricature. The pace is breathless, with Dark and Sarah crashing through windows, kicking their way out of police cars, finding other cars and helicopters conveniently at hand, along with old women ready to give shelter in remote cottages and diving suits to get down to that U-boat. It’s an interesting story but it doesn’t have the clinching, convincing detail of Deighton or Adam Hall, models for this kind of thriller.   


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