Billed as a successor to Frederick Forsyth and John le Carre, Charles Cumming's stylish thriller really packs a punch. It's easy to see why he has been compared to Forsyth and Le Carre, he combines the action of Forsyth with the shady, world weariness of earlier Le Carre. He isn't as good as Le Carre, although like the better known author Cumming has also spent some time with MI6, but there is much to enjoy in this contemporary thriller.
It's a clever tale. The central characters are well drawn, and Cumming is adept (as was Le Carre) at dealing with the more unpalatable work that spies are expected to do. This may mean that occasionally (depending on your political views) you are either going to be completely in sympathy with Cumming's characters, or will be less than happy. Thankfully these areas are touched on reasonably lightly, and most of the story is a fairly gung-ho adventure tale, which anyone who likes a good thriller should thoroughly enjoy.
There's a fair bit of back-story, but Cumming makes sure that readers don't get lost in its threads; and I, for one, would very much like to read more in the series. Oddly enough, in spite of the substantial back story, this is actually the first in a series of novels about Thomas Kell. It's the best contemporary thriller I've read in some time, and I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.