What I love about spy stories is that there are so many styles. One to suit your every mood. There are fast paced thrills, there’s tense drama, and investigative exposés of spying as a dirty business. What Red Station does seamlessly is take a portion of each of these styles and mix them together into a thrilling espionage tale. But first and foremost, Red Station is a character driven piece, and the lead character is an M.I.5 veteran named Harry Tate. I am guessing it’s no co-incidence that author Adrian Magson chose to call his hero ‘Harry’. When I think of ‘Harry’, I immediately think of Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) in The IPCRESS File or Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) in The Conversation – both classic ‘Harry’s’. In both instances, they are not particularly glamorous men. They are however, world weary and intelligent – even if they don’t have the educational qualifications to back it up. They are old-school spies. So too is Harry Tate. He’s the type that doesn’t quite fit in with his superiors – ‘the players’.
When a drug interception operation goes wrong – one which Tate is leading – he is called in front of these ‘players’ to explain what went wrong. His answers don’t please the powers that be, and he is shipped off to a top-secret posting called ‘Red Station’ – which is in Georgia. Now I know what you’re thinking – how can an M.I.5 operative (Home Office) be sent to a station that would appear on the outside to fall under the jurisdiction of the M.I.6 or the Foreign Office? That’s a damn good question, and one that I won’t answer here – as it’s integral to the plot (no spoilers from me).
So Tate is stationed away from the world – and particularly the media who are screaming for blood after the failed drug operation – and he finds that the outpost is staffed by a collection of misfits who are all doing penance for some misdemeanor in the espionage world. Firstly, there is the station chief, Mace, who spends most of his waking hours sozzled out of his brain. Then there’s the lovely but possibly lethal Clare Jardine, who is a bit of a cold fish. Next there’s the straight laced security chief Fitzgerald; and lastly Ferris the computer guy.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a story if Harry served his time without incident, so naturally everything has to go pear shaped. And as you have no doubt guessed with a story set in this part of the world, that being Georgia, the Russians want to reclaim a little lost ground – and consequently power. Situated right at the heart of this drive forward by the Russians is Red Station, and before Tate has even really settled in, the once mundane, verging on boring, outpost is suddenly the centre of espionage activity in the region. This is exacerbated when a team of highly trained British and U.S. soldiers, whose job is to monitor the advance of the Russian troops, loose contact – presumably killed – with their superiors. They were all that stood between the Russians and Red Station.
Now it’s up to Tate, to drag this motley crew kicking and screaming to safety. If you are after a wild breathless jaw-dropping roller-coaster of a ride, then you may have to look elsewhere – Red Station is not that kind of a book – because as we all know, pace comes at a price – and that price in a novel is sacrificing depth and characterization. Red Station doesn’t do that. But those who like their spy stories logical, topical, with a hint of trade-craft, and characters you actually care about (Yes please!), will find a lot to enjoy in Red Station.
My spies have told me that Harry Tate’s next adventure, Tracers, is scheduled to be released in February next year, and I for one am pretty pleased about it because I thoroughly enjoyed Red Station – and if you’ll forgive my proclivity for comparisons and putting labels on everything – I have been looking for an author and a series to fill the void left by Clive Egleton and his Peter Ashton stories, and I am thinking that I may just have found it – and that makes me very happy!
For American readers – although the release date on Amazon is listed as December 3rd 2010, it looks like Red Station is already available for shipping.