The arrival of a new Henry Porter novel will forever be accompanied by a sense of sweet nostalgia. When his debut “Remembrance Day” was published in 1999, I distinctly remember my father reading a copy of it poolside in a Phuket resort — I think the Jack Higgins quote on the cover was the key selling factor, ‘The best book of its kind I’ve read since “The Day of the Jackal'” — while I read my copy of Raymond Benson’s James Bond novel “Doubleshot.” Back then, Dad did all the book buying. Nowadays it’s me sharing my Henry Porter’s. The cycle is complete.
“The Old Enemy” is the perfect culmination of Porter’s two most recent spy thrillers. Though it can be read as a standalone, it rewards readers who’ve been with this cast of characters from the beginning, when former MI6 agent Paul Samson was tasked with tracking a thirteen-year-old Syrian refugee with vital intelligence relating to an ISIS terrorist cell (“Firefly”), and later hired by philanthropist Denis Hisami to find his kidnapped wife — and Samson’s former lover — Anastasia (“White Hot Silence”).
In “The Old Enemy” we learn much of the turmoil faced by Porter’s characters in these preceding volumes was orchestrated by a Cold War-era nemesis that has infiltrated the highest echelons of the UK and US government and industry. They’ve assassinated one of Britain’s finest spymasters (and one of Porter’s legacy characters, who has appeared beyond this trilogy) Robert Harland, exposed Denis Hisami to a nerve agent, and dispatched a hitman to assassinate Samson.
Porter keeps his complex story from snarling by crosscutting chapters between Anastasia and Samson as they work to expose and dismantle this immense Kremlin cabal from different sides of the world. There’s a barrage of finely-paced action set-pieces, electrified by his crisp prose, but Porter writes espionage fiction for the more discerning thriller reader, with a greater focus on character and atmosphere. If you’ve done all of le Carré, Cumming, Greene and Ambler, and still crave more? Porter’s the guy you should be reading.
Series: Paul Samson Spy Thriller
Number Of Pages: 416
Available: 26th October 2021
Publisher: Quercus Books