The Old Enemy by Henry Porter

ARRSE Rating
2.00 star(s)
I am a long time fan of spy novels, Len Deighton, Ted Allebeury, John le Carré etc. so I was looking forward to this book. Henry Porter has written a number of spy novels which are in a connected series. Although this is apparently intended to be a standalone novel, in my opinion it isn’t, being the third in a series of works involving the main character Paul Samson. The previous Henry Porter books have had generally positive reviews on places such as Amazon and Goodreads but I admit to not having read any of the previous works. The Paul Paul Samson series is the follow on from a series of spy novels involving a character called Robert Harland whose story is in a number of previous novels. Harland was Sampson’s mentor but is now deceased in a suitably murky way.

This is a chunky book, being just over 500 pages so beware if you’ve packed it in your flight bag to carry on! No spoiler alerts, but Sampson is a former MI6 operative, Arab speaking and of Lebanese heritage. In this particular novel, Sampson is involved in outing a Russian plot to infiltrate US politics. The action moves rapidly across multiple locations world wide and with characters moving in and out of the plot at a rate of knots. Lots of people get killed in various ways.
Many of the characters in the book have appeared in the previous Paul Sampson novels and some in the previous series of Robert Harland novels too. Which bring me to my comments on reading:

As noted above, the novel is evidently intended to be standalone but, in truth, there are so many references to previous events that it would have been very helpful to have read at least the previous two Paul Sampson novels and entirely possibly the Robert Harland series before that.

There were too many references to past events and people without sufficient context which made it very difficult to maintain concentration on the storyline. I also found that there were lots of overly detailed passages describing trivia e.g. what sandwiches were in the lunch buffet. The book could probably have been 150 pages shorter with no detriment.

The plot is ok but too convoluted. There are some good action sequences, but overall I found this book to be very hard work. The concluding chapters are also somewhat of an anti-climax (again no spoilers but it doesn’t end in a shootout at the OK Tearooms).

In conclusion, I found this book difficult to get through, not that it’s badly written, but because of the needlessly over-complicated plot and endless references to events which occurred in previous books. Having completed reading the book, I’m not rushing out to buy any of the author’s previous works.

Some may see differently but only two mushrooms from me.

Amazon product
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I read the book not long ago and would agree with all of the above, particularly "I’m not rushing out to buy any of the author’s previous works". I'd add that in terms of credibility some of the 'tradecraft' depicted makes James Bond films seem like documentaries. Willing suspension of disbelief definitely required.

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