Part-espionage, part-thriller and part-political, this is another wonderful story in the Paul Samson series.

Sometimes I’ll really miss a book. And I enjoyed The Old Enemy by Henry Porter so much that several days after finishing it I’ve woken up wishing I had more of it to read.

Back in 2019 our book group read Firefly, the first in Porter’s Paul Samson series. We were all blown away by it – the story, the writing, the attention to small details. It’s a wonderful book.

As I started to read this, I quickly realised I hadn’t read Book 2 (White Hot Silence) but actually, moving straight to The Old Enemy, which is Book 3, wasn’t a problem. There’s enough background information scattered through this novel to fill in any gaps, and I’m now determined to backtrack to read the one I missed.

You’ll gather from what I’ve said so far that I enjoyed this, but it’s a difficult novel to describe as it’s part-espionage, part-thriller, and part-political. Things start at a good lick, with ex-MI6 agent Paul Samson surviving a knife attack in London which he thinks was aimed at someone else. Not long afterwards he realises that he was actually the target, although he doesn’t know why.

Later that same day he hears that his old mentor at MI6 has been shot dead on a remote stretch of the Baltic coastline. To start with MI6 seem keen for him to find out what’s going on; then they actively discourage him, to the point where he’s threatened with arrest and has to leave the UK quickly.

Bit by bit the plot solidifies. We reconnect with Naji, the Syrian refugee who was previously known as Firefly. He’s now a young man, studying at university in London and making a name for himself. And there’s Anastasia Hisami, the love of Samson’s life, whose husband, Denis, is central to exposing the conspiracy.

As the action moves around the world – London, Washington DC, Talinn, Berlin and places in between – things become clearer. There are no big reveals or sudden plot twists. The clues are waved in front of you tantalisingly before they are explained. It’s great stuff.

My verdict

This is a novel with an intricate plot that is cleverly told, piecing together a global conspiracy as the story proceeds. There’s tension and excitement aplenty but nothing is overdone. The writing style is measured, not breathless, so you have time to be drawn in deeply. I enjoyed reading it so much I can’t rate it anything less than 5-Stars.

The ending is immensely satisfying. Mostly, the villains are despatched and the familiar cast members survive. But I can’t say more about the plot without giving too much away. Just take it from me that this is a really engrossing story, easy to read and difficult to put down. And I’m still missing it!
Review by: Cornish Eskimo

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