The Jaded Spy, Nick Spill
THE JADED SPY is the second in the Jaded Trilogy (the first being THE JADED KIWI), a series of stand-alone-ish (so far) manic thrillers with a strong sense of tongue-in-cheek humour and sense of place and time. Set in 1976 the earlier book concentrated on the war on drugs in New Zealand. THE JADED SPY comes from the same time period, but tackles the growing Maori Land Rights movement, student riots, a Soviet Spy Scandal and a political party with no scruples and an overwhelming desire to stay in power, no matter what (sounds familiar....).
Told as the story of Alexander, an art curator, tasked with escorting a painting of Captain James Cook to the Auckland Art Gallery, from where the priceless portrait is stolen on opening night. Alexander must then find the painting to save his career, whilst avoiding a Soviet spy, and developing a brand new relationship with a woman he meets along the way. Oh and he becomes a spy himself along the way.
Meanwhile a Maori Land Rights group claim to have kidnapped the portrait, ransom for lands that were seized before and after the Treaty of Waitangi and then there's the notebooks that are wanted by the FBI and the KGB and the intrigue that's going on between the local Security Services and the New Zealand police.
Needless to say, manic is about the only word that can sort of come close to describing the action, which is, as with the earlier novel in the series, presented in dry, wry manner that's really engaging and good fun to read. Whilst this is flagged as a series, they don't need to be read in any particular order, but this one, given the author's background as an exhibitions curator, does have a particular feeling of authenticity.
Probably because of that sly, dry, understated sense of humour, I really have developed quite a liking for these books - looking forward to the third one now.
Alexander, the curator, is sent to Auckland to escort Captain James Cook to the Auckland Art Gallery. On opening night, the priceless portrait is stolen. Alexander has to find the painting to save his career but he also has to deal with a Soviet spy whom he has been clandestinely photographing. He meets Dr. Mel Johnson who proves irresistible to him when he is invited to her female-only martial arts school.
A Maori Land Rights group led by Wiremu Wilson claims to have kidnapped Captain Cook and is holding the painting ransom for lands that were seized before and after the Treaty of Waitangi, and Wiremu has the authorities in a panic.
To further complicate Alexander’s stay in Auckland he has to deal with Dr. Mel’s boyfriend, and his missing scientific notebooks that are wanted by the FBI and the KGB, as well as the intrigue between the Security Service and the New Zealand police.
Alexander has to come to terms with being a spy, betraying his friends and deciding how far he will go in his new government job. He struggles to discover who he has become and what he has lost.
Set in 1976, The Jaded Spy is the middle story of the Jaded trilogy and is a window into a vibrant changing New Zealand, with the growing Maori Land Rights movement, student riots, the Soviet spy scandal and a political party that will do anything to stay in power and destroy its enemies.