Author ~ J.T. Rogers
Publisher ~ DSP Publications
Published ~ 4th October 2016
Genre ~ M/M Romantic Suspense, Historical
Robert Flynn abandoned a sterling military career when his best friend and fellow soldier, Wesley Pike, died under his command. More than a decade later, Flynn’s quiet life is disturbed by the troubles of a fledgling CIA and Alexander Grant, a flashy agent with a lot to prove. As the space race between the United States and the Soviets heats up and the body count rises, the two men fight to find common ground. Grant knows Flynn believes in the cause, but all Flynn sees is the opportunity to fail someone like he failed Wes. An attack by a Soviet agent spurs Flynn to action and a reluctant association with the agency, and tilts Flynn’s world on its axis with a shocking discovery: Wesley Pike may be alive and operating as a Soviet assassin.
With Grant to bankroll the operation, his superiors looking the other way, and Flynn’s hard-earned peace officially forfeit, Flynn reunites his old team with the singular goal of finding Wes. But they get more than they bargained for—Wes is amnesiac and dangerous, brainwashed into becoming the perfect weapon. Flynn struggles to reach his friend, lead his team, and navigate his charged relationship with Grant—something neither of them expected and aren’t sure how to parse—while coming to grips with his long-buried feelings for Wes.
“God, I miss the Cold War!”
That little outburst from M in the most recent film of Casino Royale amused me no end. How could anyone regret the end of one of the most terrifying periods of history? A time when it seemed very likely that a nuclear solution might be taken to political problems, the Space Race was less about exploration and more about getting something lethal into orbit and the Doomsday clock stood at one minute to midnight. Of course M was regretting the loss of a clearly defined enemy, for what could be more clearly defined than two superpowers eyeing each other across the ocean and getting all their expendables allies in a row, like ducks in a shooting gallery?
Such is the setting of In From the Cold. Just the title evokes the chilly expediency of authors such as Le Carré and Condon yet there is a much lighter side to the story too.
The story opens with a nightmare scenario set in the Second World War as special forces paratroopers prepare to go into action. It goes horribly wrong for one of them and all subsequent action hinges upon this terrible moment of loss. The book has many short flashbacks to what led up to this scene and its aftermath so it is kept in the forefront of our minds. But most of the action takes place in the 1950s as Robert Flynn, once a special forces commander, now a baker in Brooklyn, takes off his apron and gets back into righteous ass-kicking. In this he is assisted by some of his old platoon, Alexander Grant, a maverick CIA agent, Grant’s immensely competent valet and various members of the intelligence community who are prepared to slip their masters’ leash. I believe that this book is the first of a series, so it does a good job of establishing personnel and their abilities for the next outing.
While predominantly an action story, filled with incident and tension, there is also some romance. The 1950s was a dreadful time to be gay so lovers have to be extremely discreet, unless you are Alex Grant, so wealthy and well connected that you feel you can take chances when pursuing what you want. Robert Flynn wants too, but his desires are rather more complex. He is burdened with a great love, unstated and lost, as well as an urgent desire not to be arrested. I found the tensions in the relationship very believable, especially as the stakes are raised and Robert’s heart is put in as much danger as his body.
Historically speaking, I found the book a good deal of fun. I was a babe in arms when Sputnik was launched but remember the jokes – my dad described a co-worker as “just like Sputnik, he goes round and round but doesn’t seem to do much” which just goes to show he’d missed the point – and the excitement as each successful, and many unsuccessful, launch was announced. The tense action scenes and the discretion of gay lovers were well described too and I am deeply in love with Cartwright, ex SAS gentleman’s gentleman. There’s a slightly fan ficcy vibe to the story – the author’s Twitter account makes no bones about it, suggesting that if you’ve ever wanted Captain America to have a boyfriend then this is the book for you – but this isn’t a drawback. You don’t need to be up to date with fandom to appreciate the characters and storyline. If you have a familiarity with the Marvelverse then you’ll just have some pretty mental images – this book really does standalone, but I hope not for too long. I’ll be please to meet Robert, Grant, and especially Cartwright, again.