Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: The Librio Defection by James Hopwood

Jarvis Love is a newly minted field agent - young, bright-eyed, and eager to serve for King and Country. But when he's given his first assignment, it turns out to seemingly be a sideshow to the real operation - the defection of a world-renowned Russian violinist. Love travels to Milan, where he's to find Belladonna Librio, the violinist's mistress, who also happens to be - ahem - a "professional companion".

What starts off as a simple snatch-and-grab turns into a deadly battle of wits, fists, and gunplay against a Russian KGB major and his crew of muscle-bound thugs. Love discovers reserves of physicality and determination he never realized he had, and by the end of the operation, Love has gone from naive rookie to blooded veteran.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Librio Defection from start to finish. Hopwood writes clean, crisp prose that moves fast and fluidly from scene to scene. The descriptions of Italy are brief but vivid, especially during the car chases and other travel sequences, giving the book the needed realism without a burdensome level of detail.

As for our main character, I found myself cringing at Love's early bumbles, then later cheering him on as his confidence grows and Love steps up to the challenges of his mission. This is a perfect "origin story" for a Cold War British spy - a sideshow mission that balloons into something much more complicated and dangerous.

I'm definitely looking forward to more of these 60's-era spy stories, because it's a world so filled with adventure and ripe for endless storytelling.

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