Hammer to Fall by John Lawton

‘Odd thing, memory.’

London, 1960s.  Remember the Cold War? MI6 spy Joe Wilderness has had some interesting experiences, and in this novel (the third in the series) will travel full circle. The story opens in 1948 in East Berlin, where Joe Wilderness (real name Joe Holderness) is combining spy-craft with a little black-market activity. It’s easy money, until things go wrong.

By way of punishment, Wilderness is then posted to remote northern Finland under the guise of a cultural exchange program aimed at promoting Britain abroad.  There’s not much to spy on there, or so it seems, until Wilderness finds another way to make money. There’s a vodka shortage in the USSR, and Wilderness is able to use this to his advantage with the help of a Russian, Kostya, he had dealt with previously in Berlin.  Why is Kostya in Finland?  A connection is made, and then Wilderness is withdrawn to London.

‘Nothing undermined Intelligence like complacency.’

But his adventures continue, making it very difficult to put this novel down. There’s plenty of tension and some wry humour, there are contacts from the past and some very interesting new characters I hope to see more of.  And then, there’s a twist at the end.  What will happen next?

While this is the third Joe Wilderness novel, it is possible to read it as a standalone.  If you enjoy spy novels with a touch of humour, like political intrigue (and especially if you remember aspects of the Cold War), you may enjoy this novel as much as I did.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and  Grove Atlantic for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith