Narrator: Wayne Farrell
Series: The Virtuosic Spy #1
Published by Kathryn Guare on 11 March 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Suspense
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Meet Conor McBride. He's even more interesting than the trouble he gets into.
A talented Irish musician reluctantly reinvents himself, disappearing into an undercover identity to search for the man who ruined his career: his own brother. On a journey from the west of Ireland to the tumultuous city of Mumbai, Conor McBride's only goal is to redeem the brother who betrayed him. But he's becoming a virtuoso of a different kind in a dangerous game where the rules keep changing - and where the allies he trusted to help him may be the people he should fear the most.
©2014 Kathryn Guare (P)2016 Kathryn Guare
Set in 2003-2004, Conor McBride is willing to go to great lengths for his family. He was a concert violinist when he found out just how badly his older brother Thomas screwed him over. He’s since fled the country, leaving Conor to pay the government back the large debt. He also moved back to the family farm in Ireland to help his ailing mom (Brigid McBride) out. Then a mysterious man shows up offering him knowledge of where his brother is in exchange for service. Pretty soon, Conor is wrapped up in a world of deceit, drugs, corruption, and guns. And magnificent Indian food.
This was a gripping novel! Conor and his brother Thomas have some serious history between them. Conor feels that his life was ruined when he was saddled with his brother’s enormous debt, having to return from London to the family farm on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland that he never had any interest in. Years have passed and Conor grows comfortable on the farm, even though it’s a far cry from his concert violinist life. Then Frank Murdoch from MI6 shows up offering information on the whereabouts of Thomas but it’s not free. The British Intelligence Service wants something from Conor and that involves 10 hard weeks of spy camp and several long months working in some of the roughest parts of India. I was surprised when Brigid sends Conor off with her blessing, saying that Thomas needs him.
There’s very little about the spy camp. Our hero goes from fiddling cow milker to trained deadly spy in several paragraphs, tho there are a few references to his time there later in the story. Conor brought some of his own skills to table from the beginning, like his intelligence, linguistic skills, and athletic build. With that, he surpassed his instructor’s expectations. Yet he isn’t ready for everything he comes across in the field. There are some tough scenes for this fledgling spy and despite the dirty business he’s in, he never loses his humanity. He’s this wonderful mix of competence, steel nerves, and soft heart.
Most of the book takes place in India, in and around Mumbai. I definitely felt that the author had done her research. She brought the beauty and the grunge. It was a very believable setting complete with child slavery, tasty food, generous hospitality, illegal arms sales, gentle religious rites, and drug use.
There’s several female characters in this spy novel which isn’t the usual for this genre. So that was a breath of fresh air. Yet the ladies were pretty much there to comfort the men. They each have some personality and some role in the story that is more than window dressing and yet none of them ever really touch the central plot. Conor’s world of spies is a man’s world. I would have liked a bit more from the ladies. However, this little weakness of the story didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel. Kavita was the most prominent lady in that she provided medical care and comfort of a motherly sort to Conor when he really needed it. I really liked her calm and patience and yet she could also be insistent when needed. Radha is a 13 year old heroin addict and dancer at a pleasure house. Conor’s undercover persona brings him to this seedy side of town where he meets Radha and he wishes he could do something to permanently help her situation. They’re relationship, as fleeting as it is, pulled the emotions out of me.
Let’s chat about Sedgewick, who like Murdoch, presents a well-honed edge to the world at large. Conor in his endearing way manages to catch both men in unguarded moments, revealing something deeper. Sedgewick had a lot more page time and he’s definitely a complicated character. He’s wrestled with his demons but they left scars and he’s just a touch paranoid that those around him don’t trust him…. but he’s in the spy business. I loved this polarity about him. He works in a field that calls for deception yet craves solid relationships. I hope we get to see him again.
The McBrides have a sixth sense of a sort. It’s left pretty nebulous, something that can be chocked up to chance or a mystical element depending on how the reader wants to interpret such things. For me, I could leave it or take it. This element of the story didn’t do much for me other than keeping Brigid engaged in the storyline even when she wasn’t on the page.
The action scenes were great. There was plenty of tension throughout the tale as Conor does his best to navigate this deadly web. With each layer of lies he peeled back, I became a little more paranoid about who he could trust. Eventually, we learn about the main bad guy that everyone wants, Vasily Dragonov. Things don’t go as planned and I felt deeply for Conor by the end of the story. What an emotional ringer the guy has been through! I was engaged throughout the entire tale. Conor McBride is my new favorite spy!
I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.
The Narration: Wayne Farrell nailed this performance. Gallic, English, Hindi, and Russian accents pepper this story and Wayne did a great job with all of them. There’s some Hindi and Gallic prayers and swearing as well which he did with gusto. His female voices were all believable and each character was distinct. He was able to portray the variety of emotions of Conor McBride and the other main characters with moving accuracy.
This review first appeared on Dab of Darkness.
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