NOVEMBER ECHO takes place as the main tensions of the Cold War are winding down in 1985, but suspicions about biological warfare pervade the covert community. On the surface, it is time for the Wall to come down. Underneath, the action is as intense as ever and secrets are highly sought political assets. Author James Houston Turner sets the stage perfectly, with a quick history lesson before getting deep into the ranks of the KGB. The latest in the Aleksandr Talanov series, this installment hits its stride quickly for both new fans and those familiar with this complex lead character.
In the trenches of the Russian spy organization, a battle of wills is waged between the brass and rogue, but highly effective Colonel Talanov (based on an actual KGB agent). He has a unique and unsubstantiated theory about the defection of a doctor with controversial knowledge about the secret and very illegal development of biological weapons in Russia. After a tentative go-ahead he not only embarks on an insane mission, but he does it in an overt and flamboyant style that catches both his allies and enemies off-guard. It’s so crazy it just might work, until a stunning betrayal unleashes unspeakable violence upon his well laid plan and puts him on the run and in the crosshairs of even his own beloved country.
Houston’s latest installment in the Talanov story, hits the ground running, with constant action, and new characters introduced and integrated flawlessly. The pace is steady and both easy to follow and hard to put down. Talanov is one of those charming, Bond-style characters readers want to see succeed at all costs, regardless of his political alliance, because his aims are just. For the most part he does, though he suffers shocking setbacks along the way and his means are unconventional. At times the detail of seemingly meaningless minutia is distracting, but overall the story is consistently engaging.
NOVEMBER ECHO is an exceptional spy thriller, set in a volatile time and refreshingly told from the perspective of a likable Russian spy who is flanked on both sides by a cast of interesting and eclectic characters.
Reviewed by Kat Toland for IndieReader