Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Nov 17, G. I think I prefer his Station series to this one. View 1 comment. McColl is a wannabee spy, who was recruited for the British intelligence service on a part time basis; partly because of his job as a salesman for luxury cars, which allows him opportunities to travel, and partly because of his incredible talent for languages. Set just before the start of the first world war, we firs Author David Downing, best known for his historical mystery series set around the time of WWII Zoo Station being the first has created a compelling new character with Jack McColl.
Set just before the start of the first world war, we first meet Jack in China, where he has abandoned his younger brother Jed and friend Mac to carry on with the car business he seems to do this regularly throughout the novel while he is trying to obtain intelligence on the German navy ships in Tsingtau. Almost discovered, he flees to Shanghai, to meet up again with Jed and Mac and also to begin a relationship with New York journalist Caitlin Hanley. Caitlin is a very earnest young women, who believes passionately in a whole host of causes and, despite her desire to be independent and modern, seems quite happy to leap into bed with Jack her confidence in early contraception seems a little misplaced considering the huge social impact of becoming an unmarried mother at that time.
This is obviously the first book in a new series and much of it involves establishing character. Jack is a pleasant young man, desperate to do the right thing and obviously enamoured with Caitlin. Although the best parts of the novel involve Jack actually spying - the strongest part of the whole book is at the beginning, where he is actually involved in trying to discover information for his spymaster Cummings - there is also a distance from the action which makes you less involved with the action.
Even when fleeing the Germans, Jack seems keen to downplay the danger and, although he is seriously attacked and knows he may be killed, he still fails to carry out even a cursory search when checking into a hotel room. Even when another agent is killed literally moments after he has visited him, you feel he is detached from events. Also, the plot involves him spying on the Germans, Indian nationalists and the Irish, who are clamouring for Home Rule. This creates a nice conflict of interest with Caitlin, whose family are Irish and who have links to people Jack is investigating.
However, there is also a lot of the "sit down and I will explain it" versions of events; leaving you with a bewildering number of storylines, involving not only the build up to war or Irish nationalism, but strikes, Indian independence, oil in Mexico and women's suffrage. Despite shortcomings, I did feel that Jack was a character to build on. With the end of book coinciding with the outbreak of WWI, there is the possibility of Jack becoming a full time spy avoiding the "I left Jed and Mac to get on with Espionage in that period was interesting, as it wasn't considered 'gentlemanly' to spy on your enemies - rather underhand and not playing the game.
I am sure that Jack McColl will not let such issues worry him at all and I look forward to following his adventures. With a more direct storyline, a little more reality and some atmosphere, such as that in the first few chapters, this promises to be a great series.
Dec 17, Glen rated it liked it Shelves: firstreads , historical-fiction , espionage.
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I got this book by a goodreads firstreads drawing. He's Scottish, like James Bond, but that's where the resemblance ends. McColl starts out in China, spying on the Germans, then travels through America, back to Scotland, and ends up in revolutionary Mexico. The settings, and some of the action is pretty good. The weakness is in the characters. McColl is basically a modern day leftist living in , complete I got this book by a goodreads firstreads drawing.
McColl is basically a modern day leftist living in , complete with daddy issues. His love interest is a cookie cutter Nellie Bly wannabe. Still and all, an engrossing novel. Aug 27, Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it. It's , they're shifting from butter to guns in Europe, and British espionage is as yet only a twinkle in the British Navy's eye. They contract hire their spies, as in Jack McColl, a car salesman currently in the German-occupied part of China a place I never knew existed until now.
The Kaiser's men are soon on to him and chase him all the way to Shanghai and then to San Francisco, where the Indians and the Irish join the mix, a triumvirate that would set any British statesman's hair on fire It's , they're shifting from butter to guns in Europe, and British espionage is as yet only a twinkle in the British Navy's eye.
The Kaiser's men are soon on to him and chase him all the way to Shanghai and then to San Francisco, where the Indians and the Irish join the mix, a triumvirate that would set any British statesman's hair on fire. It's complicated, especially by Jack's involvement with an Irish-American journalist. From SFO we travel with Jack to New York City and on to Vera Cruz in Mexico, where the US is as usual stepping on its own dick in a sort of semi-invasion supported by the usual self-justifications and providing all kinds of opportunities for foreign powers to stick their noses in way too near our border.
All the signs and portents are there, and this novel lends local color and light to almost all of them. View all 4 comments. Jun 06, John rated it liked it. Languid and atmospheric, this spy novel set on the eve of World War I could do with a little less languor and atmosphere and a little more action and plot. The story and writing aren't bad, they're just slow - there's only so many rail compartments one can describe before the reader needs something pertinent to happen in the beautifully described rail compartment.
May 03, Jeanette rated it it was ok. Extremely disappointing. This era and this set of protagonists: Jack, his brother, and their friend- they just don't make it for me. I was embedded in the story only when he Jack was doing the first train station to train station escape.
After that it was a just a drag. All together it just doesn't measure a feel of pre-WWI years or nuance to me. Even within desperation Extremely disappointing. Even within desperation it didn't arrive alive and moving. David Downing is a treasure for his Station books and some stand alone novels. Not with this Jack McColl for my enjoyment levels or period in time.
China locations didn't bloom and move like his Berlin- not even within all that description and length. Jul 14, Nancy rated it it was ok Shelves: mystery , great-war , read , worst-of I don't know if Downing got it all right, but it didn't really matter; I believed in it. Belief is coming up short with the first book in his news series.
Downing's new spy, Jack McColl, romps about on three continents and Downing likes to show off his research, which is at best perfunctory. So we get a lot of info dumps regarding the headlines of the day, tou I miss Berlin, that wonderfully evoked image of a city at war that was as much a protagonist of Downing's WWII spy novels as John Russell.
So we get a lot of info dumps regarding the headlines of the day, tourist trips around the various cities and he did get a lot wrong in New York , walk-ons by various famous and semi-famous people such as Agnes Smedley and Caresse Crosby under her maiden name , and including McColl's medic in the Boer War, who was, wait for it, Gandhi, and the love-interest's college roommate, the future Mme.
Sun Yat-Sen. Oh, sure. Moreover these are essentially 21st century characters who are supposed to have lived a century ago. Caitlin is unrealistically sexually active and gets a job as an editor at the famously misogynistic New York Times, while the Oxford-educated Jack uses such words as "Yep" and "Nope.
I think not. The lazy writing continued with that fallback of hack spy writers, a series of unrelated short adventures and no over-arching plot. I'm giving this two stars only because I suppose the series will get better now that the war has started, if Downing can focus on one arena of action at a time. I'm not sure I'll be along for the ride, however.
View 2 comments. Call this around the world in X days. Jack McColl is a Scot who sells luxury cars while doubling as an agent for England. He travels from China to the U. S, Mexico then to Ireland. This is in , and he is tracking Germany's involvement with Irish plotting freedom from English rule. Along the way Jack meets and falls in love with an independent American woman with Irish connections. There are tense moments, and Jack escapes several attempts on his life.
It's an exciting read.
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Bet 3. Better make that four full stars! Jun 21, Mark rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction , mystery , thriller , historical-fiction. The opener continues the mastery I've come to expect: Great plotting, good physical descriptions, an intriguing love story and a light shined on the parts of history we know little about.
We start with Jack McColl, a Scotsman, in Tsingtau in China, where his cover business is selling a luxury car known as the Maia, along with his brother and an associate. His real work is undercover spying against the Germans in what he hopes will be an effort to help prevent a European war. On that trip, he meets Caitlin Hanley, a forward thinking American journalist, with whom he quickly falls in love. Before he can leave for a trip to the U. From then on, the book is a galloping spy plot with plenty of twists and turns.
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