Lead Review

  • Book: The Old Enemy
  • Location: Estonia, London, Washington DC
  • Author: Henry Porter

Review Author: tripfiction



Henry Porter has been compared with John le Carré – and with good reason. The Old Enemy is far ranging both in terms of its geographical locations and in terms of its characters and timelines. It is a complex book.

Robert Harland, ex senior MI5 officer, is shot dead just outside his retirement home on the Baltic Coast of Estonia. He was the mentor of Paul Samson who left the service to work privately. In London Paul has been persuaded to take a short term role (somewhat beneath his experience level) to monitor the movements of a young woman, Zoe, working as a researcher at GreenState – a global environmental agency. He is wounded whilst trying to protect her, but it turns out that he was in fact the target. Meanwhile Denis Hisami, billionaire philanthropist, is critically ill having been targeted with a nerve agent as he gave evidence to a congressional committee in Washington. Hisami was close to Harland and was working with him on a secret project that he was financing. He was also financing Zoe and, unknown to him, Paul himself. What was he up to, what was Zoe’s role, and why should anyone want to kill all three men? It must go back into cold war history – when Harland and Samson were serving intelligence officers, and Hisami was active in his native Kurdish homeland. Samson is taken on by Anastasia (Hisami’s wife and a former lover of his) to try and get to the bottom of what is happening and why. His investigation takes him back to the Stasi days of East Germany – and events and people then that may be influencing current affairs in both London and Washington. Paul gets involved with the security services in both cities – some clearly want to help him, some are equally clearly involved in a major cover up. Have the UK and US governments been infiltrated at the highest levels? He again encounters, and finds out a great deal more about, Zoe.

The story moves apace from London to Washington, along the 2015 refugee trail through Macedonia, and on to Latvia and Estonia before reaching a thrilling climax back again in Washington. It is fast moving and exciting. You know the guilty parties before the end, but you don’t know whether they will be trapped by events or whether they will somehow escape justice.

The Old Enemy is a really good, old fashioned, spy thriller. Highly recommended.

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