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The Prague Papers (#1 Tana Standish Series)…

The Prague Papers (#1 Tana Standish Series)

by Nik Morton

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Recently added byRowenaHoseason

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There’s a nifty twist to this espionage adventure, set behind the Iron Curtain in the mid-1970s. The smart, sexy female protagonist isn’t just a rare survivor from Warsaw’s WW2 ghetto. Nor is she merely a highly skilled covert operative, brought up by the British to be extremely effective against the KGB. Tana Standish has one more thing going for her: psychic talents. There’s nothing outlandish in the psi-spy’s capabilities – they’re neatly underplayed, a talent which isn’t understood or entirely controllable but which frequently tips the odd in her favour.

This mild shift into the land of ‘maybe’ is carefully contrasted with the grim, grey reality of life in Czechoslovakia in the Seventies, brought to heel seven years earlier by Soviet tanks, its citizens stifled by the relentless brutal mechanisms of an efficient totalitarian regime. An underground resistance cell has been compromised. Tana is assigned to put the network back together and use her special talents to ascertain if comms have been compromised, or worse.

The result is a running chase through the back streets and sewers of Prague, where the protagonists barely taste their black bread and spicy sausage between violent and amorous encounters. This isn’t a slow-burn spy story a la Alan Furst where the tension builds over quiet encounters and long railway rides. Instead it’s more of a headlong hurtle through rapid liaisons and botched ops; there’s every opportunity for Tana to show off not just her psi skills but also her street savvy and close-quarters combat.

For me, the best scenes are the one-on-one confrontations, claustrophobic closed room battles of expert second-guessing. There’s a superb fight sequence which takes place in a pitch-dark living room, where weaponless Tana must defend herself against an armed opponent using her memory, wits, senses and what falls to hand. It’s beautifully choreographed and delivered.

The finale wandered a little too far into the realm of 007’s territory for my liking, with a do-or-die rescue attempt. But it’s preceded by a simply chilling chapter, the best in the book, where Tana must marshal all of her mental strength to resist the worst that her opponents employ against her. I also thoroughly enjoyed the scenes in the Soviet psychic investigations unit. Likewise, the author’s attention to detail in his descriptions of Prague, and Tana’s cracking back-story, were superb.

On the downside, some of the lapses in tradecraft were unforgivable for a seasoned agent and few of the supporting cast had much heft to their characters. It also seemed strange that given all of Tana’s abilities, she still had need of a male knight on a white charger to haul her ass out of trouble.

In the main, The Prague Papers made for a rollicking read, an intriguing mix of action-adventure, actual events and augmented espionage. There are further Tana Standish novels in the pipeline, which takes place at other pivotal points in political history. I very much enjoyed the overlap in this one between ‘real’ and ‘fiction’, so will definitely grab the next when it’s out.

There's further detail about the book here;
https://murdermayhemandmore.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/prague-papers-a-cold-war-psi-story/ ( )
  RowenaHoseason | Jun 22, 2016 |
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