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Plenty of action in a worthy addition to the series
on 15 July 2012
The Apocalypse Codex is the fourth in the `Laundry' series, best described as spy novels meet HP Lovecraft, with a hero who works in IT support and demonology (which, as everyone knows, are basically the same thing). The Laundry is the nickname for the ultra-secret part of British intelligence that deals with things beyond the usual universe, and the people who worship or try to use them.
The series started out as spy novel pastiches - The Atrocity Archives was a homage to the Harry Palmer novels of Len Deighton, and The Jennifer Morgue was a full-on James Bond romp, but that element seems to have fallen away a bit in the last two - The Fuller Memorandum was, according to Wikipedia, inspired by the works of Anthony Price, but I've never read any of those so couldn't confirm, and I'm fairly sure The Apocalypse Codex is at least referencing the Modesty Blaise comics and novels (in the central character of freelance witch Persephone Hazard), but the author seems to be getting into elaborating the universe of the Laundry itself, rather than riffing on other works.
Since that universe is shortly facing a full-scale apocalypse in the uncertain shape of the Great Old Ones who are due to return some time Real Soon Now and eat everyone's brains, it's not suprising that the last two entries in the series have been considerably darker in tone than the fun action of The Jennifer Morgue.
The Apocalypse Codex features some Christian (ish) cultists who want to wake an entity from another universe, and it's our hero Bob Howard's job to liaise with the `External Assets' (contractors, the CIA would call them) who are to infiltrate, investigate, and if necessary, terminate them - Persephone Hazard, who was running her own occult intelligence network before working with the Laundy, and her ex-Para (with a touch of the witchfinder) associate Johnny McTavish. Bob has less of the heavy lifting to do this time around, as he has been promoted to management, with the freelancers getting most of the action (and there is plenty of well-drawn action), but he still gets to kick cultist butt when required. The plot bowls along as usual, and the espionage and horrific elements are well balanced.
I'll be a bit disappointed if we never get to read a John le Carré-inspired Laundry book, and the tone of the books is increasingly dark as it heads toward the seemingly inevitable apocalypse, but this is a good addition to a fun series.