Reviewer Art Tirrell: Art lives near the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York. He likes to write character-rich stories with generous dashes of romance. He is the author of three novels, The Secret Ever Keeps (2007), The Vitaman Effect (2010), and The Wind from Entouhonoron (2012). Follow Here to find out more about Art.
Author: Alec Nevala-Lee
Author: Alec Nevala-Lee
If the machinations that take place within the Russian intelligence services were only half as convoluted as Alec Nevala-Lee makes them, they'd still be twice as hard to unravel as those of agencies anywhere else in the world. There's something about those Russians; they keep their cards close to the chest - and here it makes for dense, intricate reading as the plot of City of Exiles is slowly introduced and begins to unfold.
The operative word there
is, "slow," as the reader is first introduced in Prologue
to Ilya Severin, former Russian Intelligence operative known as, "The
Scythian," but now in hiding, and then to Karvonen, ostensibly
in London to work with his boss, a fashion photographer. Next,
we meet Wolfe, female FBI agent assigned to London's Serious
Organized Crime unit, a division of the British Intelligence
Directorate, and Powell, Wolfe's immediate boss, as they investigate
the murder of the man who'd been at the center of the arms
trafficking case they'd been building for the past year, but whose
death has now left their case in shambles.
Even at page 100 it is not yet clear who the principal protagonist will be or what, if any, question will lie at the core of the plot, and for us these things made the early part of City of Exiles hard to engage with. We found ourself putting the book down more frequently than is usual. We just weren't "into" the story.
Fortunately, in this case
perseverance early on paid big dividends later. The POV gradually
comes to center on Wolfe, who takes steps to investigate the death of
the Armorer and others important to the case. Ultimately, Wolfe
establishes a rapport with Severin, and as they discuss the Book of
Ezekiel and he mentors her on the realities of Russian life, the
first inklings of a hidden intelligence operation are revealed. From
there, the pace of the story accelerates, and the second half of the
novel becomes a sizzling ride no one who enjoys intrigue is likely to
be putting down before the final lines have been delivered.
Nevala-Lee's writing is confident and his prose polished, elements that make for a very, "reader-friendly" experience which is a pleasure all by itself. The work has been well edited and given a strong cover. If you're ready for a level of intrigue that probes further and reaches deeper than the average thriller, City of Exiles is likely to provide you with an enjoyable experience.