Jon Stock

Harper Collins /BLUE DOOR £6.99 pbk

Released: January 7th 2010

Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is the author of the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer series published by Crème de la Crime. Visit for more.

There can’t be many more unusual places to begin a thriller than in the crush and bustle of the London Marathon. But that’s where Jon Stock’s ‘Dead Spy Running’ takes off as his central character, Daniel Marchant, son of a disgraced head of MI6 and an officer of the Service himself, prevents the assassination of the American Ambassador by a forced suicide bomber.

He narrowly escapes death himself, along with everyone around him, by the simple expedient of running with the reluctant bomber at a constant pace until it can be defused; anything slower, the bomber tells him, and it will explode.

Unfortunately for Marchant, his courageous action is barely acknowledged, and even looked on as suspicious. It is another sign that for the son of a suspected traitor, life is just not that simple. There are too many people prepared to believe him to be cut from the same cloth as his late father, who was displaced by the CIA who suspected him of treachery with a known Al Q’aeda member named Salim Dhar. To the many doubters, especially MI5, his presence alongside the bomber and the Ambassador is simply not credible.

Among those who do believe in him are his lover and fellow officer, Leila, and the new MI6 chief Sir Marcus Fielding. Leila’s mother, an Iranian member of the Bahá’í faith, is in a nursing home, a constant source of anguish for Leila, trying to steer a careful course on her career path through a sceptical Intelligence Service.

Other than that, it seems nobody wants to trust Marchant further than they can spit. This – amid the revelation of how just how powerful the Americans are, even in the UK - comes to a head when he is kidnapped from a safe house and taken to Poland, a victim of extraordinary rendition. There, he is subjected to water-boarding, the ingeniously brutal simulation of drowning used on terror suspects. Rescued with the collaboration of Polish security forces, Marchant goes on the run, his mind set on finding out who is so keen to believe that his father was a traitor, and to clear his own name, too.

Jon Stock’s writing has already been compared to Le Carré, and with some justification. His style is certainly as elegant and exciting, with a brisk pace and very well-defined characters, whether they be suits in Whitehall, terrorists in India or take-no-crap Americans officials fighting the war on terror.

This is where Stock’s profession as an international journalist shows through. With a powerful atmosphere of authenticity, one wonders how many of his past and present contacts will attempt to see themselves in this book. The tension is particularly sharp as Marchant struggles to understand who is against him and who is not, and the back-stabbing – and back-story - unravels in a way which draws you in to each of their motives and agendas... and reveals some startling shocks along the way, not least a couple of truly staggering ones for Marchant.

Running is how the book begins, and it doesn’t relent. By turn shocking, brutal and poignant, it has everything a spy novel should have.

Highly recommended.






Top of page

  Page By Gary Cane        [Contact]  
  Webmaster: Tony 'Grog' Roberts        [Contact]