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Jack of Spies by David Downing (Review #2)

Jack of SpiesReviewed by Allen Hott

Quite an interesting book that goes fairly far back in world history where an auto salesman not only fashions himself to be a spy but actually does become just that. The story takes place in the 1910’s prior to World War I. Jack McColl is a Scottish auto salesman who is traveling the world taking orders for a newly minted very expensive automobile. He, his younger brother, and a friend are accompanying one of the first models, showing it off, taking orders, and generally fascinating the public. This is at the time when automobiles were very, very rare and mostly were the Ford Models that were surely not fancy extravagant autos.

It was also the time when the world is in a very tense mode as several things are happening that can (and eventually did) lead to the largest war in the history of the world at that time. England was still the top dog but many things were happening to cause her to be on edge. Among these was the struggle by the Irish to become their own country or at least to have some type of home rule as opposed to English rule. India was kind of in the same mood as they felt that if the Irish could get some relief from English command that India should in fact also have that opportunity.

And throughout the world including the United States the workingman (and woman) was pushing for better living conditions. They felt as oppressed as anyone in any other country and there were societies or groups who were banding together into unions and the like so that they could force the “haves” to allow more to flow down to the “have-nots”.

All of these various confrontations though not truly war-like yet were close. Based on those potential happenings there were not only weapon buildups in many places but there were spies that the leaders on all sides needed to find out who was doing what and where were they getting the weapons.

As a traveling salesman, versed in seven different languages, Jack McColl, an Englishman, was a perfect fit for the English government to travel to the right places, keep his eyes and ears open and report his findings to the English command. For him it was exciting and something that he had always dreamt of. However little did he know what all would come of his new occupation.

In his travels he meets a young lady and falls in love with her. That isn’t the easiest or best thing for either of them as her family, as least part thereof, seems to be affiliated with the Irish. Also she, herself, is a very socialistic person who does all possible to fight for the little guy and as a journalist she champions their cause in every way she can.

And these are just some of the simpler things McColl has to deal with. After he is suspected to be a spy his adversaries come after him in ways that he was not expecting. He has to stay alert and constantly be on guard as attempts are made on his life.

David Downing writes extremely well and keeps the reader involved in the action which never seems to stop or even slow down. It is another stepping stone for a new series for him which should really work out well as it was an interesting period in our world’s history!

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