Cover image for Old flames
Old flames
Lawton, John, 1949-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
416 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1996.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Brilliantly evoking the intrigue of the Cold War and 1950s London, John Lawtons thrilling sequel to "Black Out" takes Inspector Troy deep into the rotten heart of MI6, the distant days of his childhood, and the dangerous arms of an old flame: Larissa Tosca, late of the U.S. Army, later still of the KGB. It is April 1956, and an official visit to Britain by Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Bulganin is unexpectedly interrupted when a mutilated body is found under the hull of Khrushchevs ship in Portsmouth Harbor. Is the dead man a Royal Navy diver or the corpse of Arnold Cockerell, a furniture salesman with a mysterious source of income? As the mystery deepens, the inexplicable murders continue, leading Troy to an unforgettable discovery.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

April 1956. Nikita Krushchev is in London on a diplomatic errand. Chief Inspector Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard is assigned as a bodyguard to the Russian leader. But he has a secret mission, too: Troy, fluent in Russian, is to spy on Khrushchev (who doesn't know the British cop speaks his language) by eavesdropping on private conversations and reporting back to his superiors. It's a tough assignment, with a handful of tricky moral qualms, and it gets a heck of a lot tougher when a Royal Navy diver turns up dead. Apparently the diver had been snooping around Krushchev's ship. Who sent him? And who killed him? And what does Troy's former lover, a U.S. Army officer turned KGB agent, have to do with all this? Lawton, whose earlier novel Black Out (1995) also featured Troy, vividly re-creates cold war Britain. Like Robert Harris' World War II novel Enigma (1995), this is jam-packed with detail and with many fully realized characters. The intriguing mystery plus the wonderfully re-created period setting equals first-class storytelling. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

Third-timer Lawton (1963; Black Out) breathes new life into an increasingly creaky genre with this complex, evocative tale that's part Cold War thriller, part whodunit and part olde English lament. Reprising his role as a Russian aristoi-cum-Scotland Yard shamus, Freddie Troy returns from Black Out's wartime fog to the dreary 1956 London of Guy Burgess and Kim Philby, where the visiting Nikita Khrushchev is cheerfully threatening nuclear annihilation. Given his Russian background, Troy is roped into an official-escort-and-spy-while-you're-at-it routine. The Russian leader gets uncomfortably pally with Troy as they tour the city, giving him a secret code word for shadow correspondence; Troy is just beginning to feel relieved at Khrushchev's departure when the decomposed body of an English frogman who allegedly spied on Khrushchev's ship turns up. The pursuit of an insignificant spy killer leads Troy into a maze of double agents, money laundering and murder, not to mention possible corruption inside Scotland Yard and both MI5 and MI6. Along the way, the author cleverly uses his protagonist and a motley crew of secondaries to meditate on WWII nostalgia ("They remember all that was bad about it and go on celebrating it. And the good stuff... the way you class-conscious bastards pulled together... all that's forgotten. You used to know you were all in the same boat, now you don't even think you're on the same river") and the settling chill of the Cold War (" `The Bomb' was `THE BOMB'. Not HE or incendiary, not 500lb or ton, but megatons-a word still virtually incomprehensible to most people, often paraphrased in multiples of Hiroshima: twenty Hiroshimas; fifty Hiroshimas"). Lawton has created an effective genre-bending novel that is at once a cerebral thriller and an uproarious, deliciously English spoof. Agent, Clare Alexander, Gillon Aitken Associates, London. (Jan.) Forecast: While this thriller may be too tongue-in-cheek for some readers, Anglophiles will eat it up. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved