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A Loyal Spy Paperback – 9 Aug 2010
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Another well-earned award - the Steel Dagger went to Simon Conway's A Loyal Spy. Thrillers that straddle the globe and have millions of lives at stake are standard issue in the genre. But this one does it differently. It's sprawling, violent and contemporary, with whiffs of authenticity that lift it above the crowd. (Spectator)
A thumping read that joins the dots in the War on Terror. Conway writes with passion and authority on the murky forces unleashed after 9/11. (Tim Butcher, author of Sunday Times No1 Bestseller Blood River - A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart)
Complex and detailed . . . Conway has concocted a credible, and wholly cynical, tale of dirt, death and double-dealing, of déraciné anti-heroes for whom perpetual conflict has become both lifeblood and poison. (The Times)
Simon Conway boldly illustrates the anarchy of "asymmetric warfare" by adopting a shapeless plotline . . . our reward for grasping the complexities is an enhanced sense of the authenticity of Conway's personal experience and a conventionally stonking action climax. (The Telegraph)
accuracy seeps out of every page (Daily Mail)
A Loyal Spy is full of the elements that make a thriller such a joy. Simon has a huge amount of knowledge of that part of the world, he has a facility for believable scenes, for convoluted plotting that would confuse le Carré, and a marvellous range of characters. (Shots magazine)
. . . impressive for the wealth of authentic detail . . . and the intricate architecture of its story . . . a compelling and very enjoyable British spy novel which offers some fascinating insights into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Canberra Times)
A LOYAL SPY has incredibly well drawn characters, evocative descriptive passages, and a superbly balanced narrative structure - the twists are unexpected but convincing and the final extended sequence is truly nail-biting. Terrific! (Misha Glenny, author of McMafia)
Alarmingly current, alarmingly possible. This is a book that captures the new world of asymmetric warfare and yet sustains the narrative and tension of the very best of the thriller genre. A LOYAL SPY is so vivid, so real, that reading it you sense Simon Conway must almost have lived it himself. (Jon Snow, Channel 4 newscaster)
Simon Conway takes you to the world's most chaotic and dangerous places - and does it with the raw descriptive power of someone who's been there and done that (Mark Urban, author of Rifles and Big Boys' Rules)
Tautly written and cleverly plotted, with well-drawn characters, vivid scenes and nail-biting passages, this is thrilling fiction that is unnervingly believable. (Choice magazine)
[a] gripping thriller (Books Quarterly (Waterstone's))
A dizzying journey starring international terrorists, Uday Hussein, freelance salvage merchants and a container full of suffocated Kuwaiti businessmen. Authoritative and authentic . . .;a thriller that manages to balance adrenaline with intelligence. (Scotland on Sunday on RAGE)
In a word: Great (The Herald Sun on RAGE)
Conway writes with brutal immediacy, his mordant irony resonating uncomfortably even as it entertains...Grim, kinetic thriller set against an unconventional and inspired backdrop (Kirkus Reviews on RAGE)
Debut of a roaring and prodigal talent ... Not so much a novel as a life experience. Don't miss it. (Literary Review on DAMAGED)
Imagine John le Carre on bad acid - edgy, twisted and very, very dark. (Howard Marks on DAMAGED)
Good background, with an on-the-nail summary of Northern Ireland wheeling and dealing . . . and a wild Celtic streak that marks Conway as one to watch. (Guardian on DAMAGED)
A debut novel to rival The Beach. (Publishing News on DAMAGED)
Cruel, violent and lyrical, it's Iain Banks meeting Alan Warner in Tom Clancy's missile silo. Excellent. (Select on DAMAGED)
A savage thriller that thrusts us into the vividly authentic world of modern intelligence, terrorism and conspiracy.See all Product description
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The book follows a group of individuals who had previously been part of the now-disbanded `Afghan Guides' - a secret MI6-funded group of soldiers operating in Afghanistan during the 1990s. None of them manage to fully escape their previous lives and are finally all thrust back in to their old ways to try and track down a one-time friend who has now turned on the group and their home country.
By following these individuals in trying to track down a one-time friend, you become fully immersed in the globalised world of espionage and the war on terror where you are only five name-checks away from your greatest ally and enemy.
My only criticism of an otherwise brilliant book would be the amount of space devoted to the characters love lives. Some detail you can do without. Still 5 stars though!
As created by author Simon Conway, Said is pretty much the most curious fictional secret agent in Her Majesty's service that I can recall. Being born of a Black mother and Palestinian father is itself unusual. But Jonah also carries enormous psychological baggage from failed relationships, plus numerous physical scars, including loss of an eye, from the violence done to his person during his years on the world's gritty edges.
Here in A LOYAL SPY, neither Jonah's mental state nor his physical one are likely to improve much as his latest assignment is to determine if his oldest friend, Nur ed-Din, with whom he played as a boy, joined the Army, and spied in Afghanistan, has gone over to Al-Quaeda. He might even have to kill him.
The story is made complex, perhaps to excess, by chapters that bounce back and forth in a timeline that stretches from 1988 to 2005 from the perspective of two different characters, Said and Miranda, the latter being the former's latest go at a relationship.
Characterizing myself as a linear thinker, the chronological bouncing back and forth took some getting used to, though I eventually came to appreciate the novel's construction by which the author supplied the motives for actions after the acts occurred. Rather clever, really.
Persistence is seen as Said's strongpoint, even by his opponents. Indeed, the energized bunny in the battery commercials has nothing on our hero; the true Englishman, he plays up and plays the game.
My only minor quibble with A LOYAL SPY was that the nefarious plot around which the novel's ending revolved lacked subtlety. However, the WWII freighter SS Richard Montgomery IS sitting on the bottom off Sheerness. (Look it up on Wikipedia). So, why not?
Jonah is such a psychological and physical mess that I'll likely continue with any continuance of the series just to see how he fares. The fact that, to date, the plots of the two Said adventures have been gripping is almost a bonus.
The first half of the book really does jump around as we're introduced to the three main protagonists, Jonah, Nor and Miranda. And the back stories mean that the novel jumps around time wise and once or twice I had to check back to find out where I was. The second half is more or less a straight adventure.
That said, it's an intriguing thriller of love and betrayal set against the contemporary field of modern day Iraq and Afghanistan and British and American paranoia and misunderstanding.
The fact that all three characters are either mixed race or had life situations in other parts of the world gives them access to story and peoples that a straight British or American 'hero' would not be able to accomplish, and makes this story all the more interesting.
No doubt there is a readership for novels of blood and violence. A Loyal Spy moves from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone to the United States, embracing Osama Bin Laden and the Twin Towers, scattering ravaged bodies in its wake. The title may have misled others besides me into assuming this was a book in Le Carré territory. My mistake doesn't mean that others will not enjoy a fast-moving, tough-talking adventure against a topical background, though they may find the "his dearest friend, his bitterest enemy" theme somewhat testing.
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Simon Conway is a great author and very imaginative and I've read a few of his novels.Read more
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