James Wolff ‘Beside The Syrian Sea’


Our head-doctors are having a field day with you. They’re used to dealing with American problems – the jock with anger-management issues, the overachiever who under-eats – butnow they’ve got all this Downton Abbey shit to get their heads round: English uptightness, too much education, a religious childhood. I’ve never seen them happier.


Move over Edward Snowden, Jonas, the central character in this spy thriller, is coming. Jonas a happy enough analyst in British intelligence learns one day that his father a protestant minister has been kidnapped in Syria by IS. The british government cannot or will not negotiate so Jonas takes it into his mind to negotiate his fathers freedom himself. yes I said analyst, no field experience but lucid, realises he needs help and persuades an alcoholic priest to go back to Syria to try to open talks with IS for him. Jonas takes a large number of government secrets as barter and whilst the government don’t know where or which these secrets are, they don’t intervene too heavily. When the Americans find out they are not too impressed, see the opening quote.

In classic spy who came in from the cold fashion, divide and rule, Jonas plays off different miltant factions against each other. On the way he meets the reason behind the priests alcoholism, who incidentally is furious with him for sending her father back to Syria. The showdown in the desert where the IS fighters sent are British and not particularly competent adds a little “old style spy” atmosphere.

If you like spy fiction about intrigue and not so much about action then this is reasonable fare.

First Published in English as “Beside the Syrian Sea” in 2018 by Bitter Lemon Press

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