The Outsiders by Gerald Seymour is an espionage thriller featuring MI5 agent Winnie Monks who follows a Russian crime czar to Spain for revenge of a brutal murder from years ago (available February 24, 2015).
If you were to ask Jonno’s parents about their son, they would describe him as ordinary, a good enough sort, but never reaching for the stars, so to speak. So, when Jonno and his girlfriend Posie discover that MI5 agents have set up shop upstairs in the villa that they’re housesitting, on the Costa del Sol in Spain, it’s shocking that Jonno seems to find an obstinacy within himself that borders on reckless. He’s self riotously furious on the behalf of the elderly couple that owns the villa (who he hardly knows, having gotten the housesitting gig through his own mother), until he witnesses a horror next door, at the villa that is the focus of the agents’ surveillance, that swiftly changes his mind, especially after he learns about the person they’re actually there to report on.
Five years ago, a Russian crime czar called The Major killed a young MI5 agent named Damian Fenby, beating him to death brutally, mainly for sport. His team, known as the Graveyard Team, has never forgotten, and the head of the since disbanded group, Winnie Monks (aka The Mad Monk), learns that The Major will be in that villa visiting the current resident (also thugs, natch). She reassembles her team and they get down to the business of payback. Winnie is a legend, and while this is a crime novel, chock full of spycraft, at its core, it’s really a portrait of a strong and capable woman, able to head a crack team of agents and do what needs to be done without flinching:
None of her team, in the old days, had called her by her given name. To them she had been ‘Boss’. Many in the building had found that title immature and smacking of the police culture, but an equal number had envied the loyalty she inspired. The Security Service had been given Organised Crime, its higher echelons, when the Northern Ireland insurgency had fizzled out, the Cold War had gone tepid and a use had had to be found for underemployed intelligence officers. Most had thought the work beneath them and only a few had relished new challenges. She had. Dottie, Kenny, Caro, Xavier, some others who had now quit and the ‘associates’ dragged in when needed-like Snapper, the surveillance photographer, and Loy, his apprentice-had been among the ‘few’. Damian Fenby, long dead and buried, had been a star of the Graveyard Team with his analysis and intellect.
The Major is a brutal man, surrounding himself by other brutal men, and it’s said that these kinds of men are not able to settle down into a normal life, but when he sees how Pavel Ivanov has “settled down” on the Spanish coast, a mecca for Russian criminals, he begins to think it might be within reach. It’s nearly impossible to feel any sort of sympathy for a monster like this, and if you think Winnie has arrest, extradition, and indictment on her mind, you’d be sorely wrong. In fact, she sends an aging former sniper (and a deadly one) along with Snapper and Loy, a man who is as loyal to her as the day is long, but may not quite be up to the job. If anyone is capable of running a mission to bring The Major down, it’s Winnie, and she’s determined to have justice for Damian.
Winnie had said, ‘He was one of us. He was with us in good times and bad. Three years gone and we still look out for him, still want his input. We could never hold up our heads if we put him on the back burner. I hate those who did it today as much as when I saw Damian in the mortuary. Listen-it will happen. God knows how, but we’ll have a name. He won’t know, right now, who I am, but he will. He should know that the day will come when we’ll bring him some sort of justice.’
Justice will have its day, but it might not be quite how Winnie or her team had imagined it, and readers will be surprised at how such a diverse cast of very compelling characters come together for an explosive conclusion, and also how the author manages to humanize, even a tiny bit, men that are about as bad as they come. The standout, of course, is Winnie Monk, a woman that effortlessly inspires loyalty, and absolutely refuses to give up her quarry. I’d hate to be a bad guy with her on my trail. This is fantastic work in line with John Le Carrè, and it’s fair to call Gerald Seymour a master of the genre. I’d be first in line for more of the phenomenal Winnie Monk.
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