Take a picture of yourself and then develop it. Draw a line down the middle and label each side. The left side of the face is who you are. The right side is the person you pretend to me. Who is the real Thomas Kell? Within this man are many conflicting personalities, fears, conflicts and secrets. As the story opens we learn about the death of his girlfriend, Rachel Wallinger and the anger is welled up inside of him hoping to cast the first shot of revenge against her killers. Seeing revenge against the Russian government for her death he a former M16 officer, now a civilian will stop at nothing and leave no stone unturned to find killer, get answers and seek revenge. But, which side of the face are we looking at as Thomas Kell is now standing on the westbound platform at Bayswater station pretending to read the Evening Standard while watching a man three meters to his left. Seeing him before in the window of a Chinese restaurant which is the scene of chapter 1, then twenty minutes later coming out of Starbucks on Queensway, Kell turns to find the man walking behind him. Kell is smart, astute and realizes that there is trouble but why. Flashing back to his wife Claire and then to his affair with Rachel, which she knew nothing about.
Alexander Minasian is the object of his anger and the man he thinks put out the contract for Rachel’s death. Thinking about how to snare him into his lair he decides to rope in his lover, Bernhard Riedle. With the assistance of a man named Mowbray and two operatives Kell was able to stage a mugging making sure that Riedle was scared but not harmed and he would come to his rescue. The meeting was unflawed and he was able to convince Bernhard that he wanted to be his friend, learn more about him and in the interim he spilled the information about Alexander and why he was so distraught when they broke up. Added in Kell hacked into his emails, read their correspondence, waited for them to set up a meeting so that he could bring Alexander to justice or his death. Email arguments, faults and disagreements stated as Kell AKA/Peter the other Kell to Bernhard lures him in even further will breakfasts and expensive dinners.
Alexander is married to someone named Svetlana who is referred to as Vera. Her father is a powerful man and dislikes Minasian and will stop at nothing to emasculate him. Kell might have two faces but Alexander is known as Dmitri. But, there are more players in this intrigue as we meet Amelia his boss and we hear their discords, their battles as he hopes to get some type of back up to bring Alexander in. But within this complex plot there is an impending danger as the Caliphate and ISIS plan an attack using someone named Said to set it off. Things get out of control as Said finds himself enjoying his mission, looking forward to go to Paradise but first he bears it all out to someone named Rosie who is an innocent suspect in the entire plot.
The Claridge is where Alexander is hiding out and Kell realizes that SIS will not provide any back up and that Amelia is going to be hard to convince about help. He doubted that Minasian would even risk going to the U.K. without his wife. Due in London he wondered why he was coming there and who had given the order to kill Rachel? What was so important to the SVR that it required his presence? Was there an underlying reason? But, as Kell has several faces so does Alexander/Dmitri, Kleckner. Inquiring into his business brought red flags and the author creates many veils of deception within each character. Kleckner had manipulated and betrayed the two cousins or CIA. Realizing that they too betrayed him in regards to Rachel would not stop him from seeking revenge. Harold Mowbray is the key to his finding out more but is he to be trusted? Believing in Riedle was Kell’s thoughts about him but when speaking with Amelia you get another perspective. Not working for her anymore and dealing with her was difficult, as she seemed to still be calling the shots. Alexander works for the SVR and Kell could have no idea what he would learn from him. But, when the meeting does take place it’s preceded by the death of a major player as Riedel sets up a meeting with Alexander and thinking he is at his hotel door he gets the last surprise of his life.
Shahid could not wait to act and he thought of the silent army of true Muslims in every community. His handler Jalal told him that the attack would come at the right moment and time. Those who had established the Caliphate, who wanted to expand and to grow in strength, predicted that Shahid’s martyrdom would fill the governments and the populations of the West with fear, his bravery would draw the United Kingdom and her allies into acts of retaliation and revenge as the author related to readers.
Riedle worked into the night and finally knew that Dmitri/Alexander would not have arranged to meet him at the flat had he not been experiencing second thoughts about their relationship. But, Bernhard wanted justice and he was angry and he knew that he had to confront Dmitri about his behavior towards him. Acceptance, tolerance of men who wanted a male-to-male relationship is at the heart of what is about to happen to him. Trust is something that Kell knows about and deceit even more as those close to him might not be what they seems and Riedle is about to learn that the hard way. As Kell dealt with Mowbray and hearing his voice stating that there was no sign of Valentina in the lobby, nor Gagarin or Alexander and his father in law, things would change. When finally in his custody the conversation seems one sided as Alexander seems to be answering and giving responses that will make Kell back off and believe him. When he relates what he learns to Amelia she does not believe that he really told him the truth and claiming he does not see him straight but too close to him. As this is happening and the plot turns dangerous someone is planning to make sure that Alexander is silenced but who and why? When learning about the terrorist attack why does Amelia discount what he is telling her and what happens if Shahid succeeds? Films that could change it all and one that would reveal the truth behind what Gagarin was doing but he was primarily concerned about STRIPE the man who would take down so many in Britain. Alexander talks him with about STRIPE and Kell needs to decide how to proceed. Wanting clemency for his actions will that happen? A flash drive that will contain the information about the attack, the man and his real identity when turned on and put in the computer does not reveal anything. Will Kell get it from him before what is planned happens? Will Alexander defect to the other side and work for Britain and not Russia? What about his wife who is going to a clinic to try and have a child?
Innocent people will be heart and many will die if Kell does not get in contact with the one person closest to Shahid, Rosie.
Minasian relates to Kell that he lived through the humiliation, years of watching the West try to destroy Russian and he joined to service to improve the standing of his country. But, Kell was smart and could not believe that Minasian was delusional and realized as he tells him that most of his colleagues were in it for money, power, greed and money laundering and organized crime. Kell wants revenge for Rachel’s death and finally had a plan. He wanted the person who ordered her murder and if he gets what he wants he offered him clemency but was that enough? Sitting down with someone named Marquand he hoped would help him stop what was going to occur in the Brighton Pavilion but no one took the threat seriously and the end result would depend on what he learned from Rosie as she too did not realize just who Shahid was, that he worked for ISIS and was about to carry out a suicide murder killing many. Will Rosie help all the people that are in danger? Will she cover up for the man she loves? What happens when she finally realizes he is a true agent of ISIS? As Alexander and Kell come to some kind of agreement and Kell is presented with a book that might enlighten him and readers as to what he is really about, Kell wondered why he was disclosing so much and was he giving him a warning or trying to warn M16 to the meeting that was about to take place and that his father-in-law would be at the heart of it? Lies, betrayals, deceits, murder, power, and attacks, learning that the person who killed Rachel was French from his own source and the real name and what else this person did. Would they be removed from Moscow? Who else was involved from SVR and the trap orchestrated by Minasian? Who is Gachon and is he the link to what is about to happen? Why does Kell bare his soul to this man and why does Alexander tell him he was instructed to engage Gachon? What is the link to Rachel’s murder and who is really responsible and why?
Conscience or justice or something else as the terrorist attack comes to light and will it be stopped or will so many are killed and what will Rosie do? What will the final fate of Alexander be: Will Kell take him and give him asylum? Will he kill him as Amelia have given him carte blanche? The final battle lines are drawn and two men have to decide which side of the face they want to be: THE REAL KELL, THE REAL ALEXANDER OR THE LEFT SIDE: THE DIVIDED SPY!
The author creates interesting and complex problems, as both Kell and Alexander have to decide where they want to be and whom they will be loyal to. Each one has an allegiance to themselves first but where will their final ones remain who will become the face on the right and who will remain: THE DIVIDED SPY? An outstanding and thought provoking novel from a great author.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine