Book of the Year 2015 (see all)
A Few Words for the Dead is the third book in Guy Adams’ Clown Service series focusing on the work of Section 37, the branch of the British Secret Service responsible for protecting Britain and the world from supernatural threats. If The Clown Service was Toby’s book, and The Rain-Soaked Bride a more communal affair, A Few Words for the Dead definitely belongs to August Shining, the head of Section 37.
Whilst Toby Greene and his wife Tamara are still battling with the assassin Fratfield, and a wind demon, in Mexico, Shining is hauled in for questioning by Section 12, who suspects he may be a security risk. They want to know all he can tell them about an ex agent, Lucas Robie – a man who could quite literally charm the pants off you. The bulk of the book is taken up by Shining’s interrogation and his flash backs of how he came to know Robie 30 years ago and how that resulted in a fatal incident. Separately, an assassin has been hired to kill Shining, which allows for the here and now plot line to co-exist with the historical cold-war Robie story. What seems to connect them both is a powerful entity that wants to be flesh and blood and enjoys taking control of people and spreading death and mayhem.
A Few Words for the Dead is not really my kind of fiction, being a diehard fantasy nut, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. The pace is fast, but not too racy, and the characterisation is excellent. The agents come across as the suave types you associate with screen icons like Bond, Steed and the Men from Uncle but with more than a dash of character and levity, which makes them interesting and endearing, a good example being the acerbic wit and intelligence of August Shining.
“He walked past the reception desk, smiling at the guard stationed there, a bored-looking man working his way through a crossword. He used a pen; you can always spot a show-off.”
April Shining comes across as a wonderful blend of Joanna Lumley and Esma Cannon (the slightly batty old girl in the Carry On films), a combination of English elegance and old school eccentric.
A Few Words for the Dead was a magical read. The action grips you and pulls you in, the fascinating characters you encounter on the way keep you turning the pages as you share in their adventures and the sheer fun the author had in penning the story. If you want a novel that is an ingenious mix of classical Bond spy atmosphere with a goodly measure of Sapphire and Steel thrown in, look no further than A Few Words for the Dead.
Review by Abbas Daya
9/10 from 1 reviews
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