Honour Among Spies by Merle Nygate, #NoExitPress blogtour

You know me, I never say no to a spy novel, and this one, the second to feature spyrunner Eli Amiram. I’ve not read the first, but didn’t feel I missed out on much, so was able to get into Honour Among Spies without worrying about Eli’s backstory. Given that in this novel, Eli is Israeli intelligence agency Mossad’s London Head of Station, I was glad to see an author’s note at the front of the book acknowledging the current political situation. The novel was written and set before the events of October 2023.

In order to keep his job as Head of London operations, Eli needs to put the past behind him, an operation that went wrong, an agent that was killed. He needs to work with his team, that means he must accept the smart alec Rafi, appointed as his deputy over the over-zealous Nathan – who will need to be diverted onto something else. He has his regular meetings with contacts in MI5 and the CIA, but when the Russian, Nikolai comes calling talking about drones, there’s an opportunity too good to be missed, but they’ll need to be extremely careful operating on British soil.

It just so happens that Eli’s wife Gal, a child psychologist, has a patient whose father is a Ukrainian electronics expert and they could use him to seed drones for the Russians with poison if they could get him a job at the company where they happen to have an agent. But to hack Gal’s files to get a contact would be unethical. What a dilemma for Eli, who puts the job first usually…

At the same time, there have been some stabbings of people in the UK, they happen to be been Israelis, tourists probably. The Israeli ambassador asks Eli to find out more, and he gets Petra on his staff, currently working in a security company on the case.

These two storylines will both intensify hugely as the novel progresses, creating suspense and coming together in a terrific climax as the terrorist plot thickens. There’s a religious aspect that deepens the plot significantly beyond the usual politics you would expect, as Nygate explores the conspiracy theories that can drive beliefs. Yes, it’s good versus evil, but not as we usually know it – (although aspects of the story resonated with me through some superficial similarities with Mick Herron’s first Slough House novel and Season 1 of Slow Horses).

There is also some high-tech gadgetry on show from the personal spy tools to the ultra sophisticated in the rather well-equipped Mossad surveillance truck, and the drones of course. As to whether they exist yet, I have no idea, but they worked to give that added impetus to the action.

Nygate’s main characters in Eli, Rafi and Petra are all well-drawn. Obviously Eli is the star of the show, and he is initially racked with his ethical battles, (you just know Gal will find out and it’ll cost him). I really liked that we get to see how his home-life and job meld, or not, and on a lighter side, how his love of pastries doesn’t help him when his physical is due with the company doc. It’s not just Eli that will suffer collateral damage either – any duplicity is not good for personal relations, but such is a spy’s life. Nygate is good on that. I also hate to say it, but Rafi does begin to grow on you as the action ramps up, having started out as quite obnoxious.

I particularly liked that Honour Among Spies didn’t need exotic locations for its thrills – the British countryside more than sufficed to showcase the actions of the characters in this thriller. I shall definitely look out for The Righteous Spy which came before, and I look forward to reading more of Eli’s adventures in this pretty realistic and complex series.

Source: Review copy – thank you! Bedford Square / No Exit Press paperback original, 416 pages.

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3 thoughts on “Honour Among Spies by Merle Nygate, #NoExitPress blogtour

  1. Calmgrove says:

    I do like an intelligent spy story with well drawn characters having to deal with ethical dilemmas. Nygate’s not an author I’d heard of before so thanks for this!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Alongside the central ethical dilemma, this one had an off-the-books undercover op and an unreliable agent to complicate things. I enjoyed it a lot.

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