I don’t read spy books very often and my memories of them are of very hefty tomes with lots of weird names, convoluted plots and characters I did not much care for (I apologise to the lovers of the genre and I’m sure I just read the wrong books). I found ‘Ethan Justice: Origins’ refreshingly different. The main character, John Smith (his name a never ending source of amusement to everybody he meets and nobody believes is his real name) when first introduced appears to be an underachiever from a good family who feels he can’t live up to the expectations of his parents. When his best friend, who is successful at everything he undertakes, is killed in mysterious circumstances he ends up involved in a dangerous adventure. John is the reluctant hero we have come to know and love in many novels and films, but he doesn’t just become by magic an all confident super-man. He is plagued by doubt and insecurities. Savannah, who in another book would be the typical prostitute with a heart of gold, is not really into the business and has many more resources than the stereotypical role would suggest. One of the strengths of the book is that all major characters are multi-dimensional, the agents who follow them (Wilson and Johnson, with mental meltdown and all), the baddie (Fisher, who narrates in a very effective stream of consciousness), and the central characters. For followers of the genre, there are also gadgets, a beautifully over the top MacGuffin (and I won’t reveal what it is), chases, violence, sex, Russian gang members (nearly), nasty pimps…The ambiance is somewhat reminiscent of late film-noir but with the twist that this is a UK-based spy thriller although international connections abound.
Although I haven't read many books on the genre I'm pretty sure you won’t be disappointed when you read it.
I leave you with one of the great quotes from the book: ‘That was the great thing about guns; they brought back good manners to those who most needed them.’