I have to admit that Espionage thrillers are not a genre that I would normally turn to, but when Lynsey Adams at Reading Between the Lines Book PR asked me to take part in the blog tour to support this release, I was tempted for two reasons. Firstly. Richard is a fellow Spellbound Books author and secondly it was largely set in my native Belfast. So, I was in…
Here’s how Richard describes his book (I’ve subbed it a little because I think it gives a touch too much away!):
It’s the summer of 1995. The US Peace Envoy, Fred Martinson, begins to broker a peace deal for Northern Ireland. The world holds its breath as the first tentative steps are taken.
Jones, an 18-year-old from suburban England, has stumbled through education and yearns to be a football reporter. He is offered a place at Milton College, a former secretarial school with a clandestine partnership with GCHQ in seeking the communication stars of the future.
Before he knows it, Jones has been recruited, paired with Jenny Richmond, who is every bit his equal, and sent to Northern Ireland to undertake skills development and resilience testing with the Young Communicators Unit (YCU).
Training becomes a matter of life and death when a group of trainee spies learning on the job are betrayed to their death, and their most promising member, Isadora Brown, is taken hostage.
What if a group of young trainees were forced onto the frontline to deal with one of the most sensitive issues in UK history
It’s a race against the clock to find and free Isadora, and make sure the US peace talks aren’t sent up in flames. But who, exactly, is betraying who?
Topaz is a twisty, turny, page turner that keeps the reader guessing while flinging its two main leads into a baptism of literal fire that only Northern Ireland of the 1990’s could deliver. Rich in local detail, obviously well researched and constructed to reflect what my hometown was like at the time.
The author has a nice turn of phrase and builds his characters into accessible and likeable protagonists. I particularly enjoyed Jones, the 18-year-old chancer who forms the heart of the story. That boy can drink, by the way…
There are some very effective set pieces, with one involving the legendary Europa Hotel, famed for once being the most bombed hotel in Europe (the Balkans conflict robbed it of this title though). The tension in this passage of the novel is expertly wrought, and I found myself holding my breath throughout. Building well to a fine climax, the book is an enjoyable read, especially if you are fan of the TV series like Spooks. Congratulations Richard, a very fine debut.
You can find the book here: