Tom Clancy Red Winter by Marc Cameron

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Set in 1985 this is a prequel to Tom Clancy’s book Red Rabbit featuring CIA agent Jack Ryan. At the time West Germany was communist and there is a helpful map of Cold War Europe and a list of principal characters and “useful terms” at the start of the book to help the reader keep track of abbreviations. The story starts with a note passed to a young State Department Foreign Services officer in Berlin during a bag snatch. The mysterious woman who passed the note disappears and the bag snatcher dies, poisoned. The note offers the US secret information in return for defection. Scene shift and we find Jack Ryan, CIA Liaison to M16 living a luxury life in London with his attractive, sexy wife and family. The phone rings and Jack is suddenly recalled to the US. Scene shift again to the desert testing site where an experimental F117 Nighthawk top secret radar evading US jet crashes, observed by a number of UFO spotters. Unknown to them one of their number is a Soviet spy who, after casually murdering two people, is able to obtain a piece of the crashed jet and sets off with it pursued by all the forces the US can muster. The story shifts back and forth between the search, Ryan and the potential defector so that by page 104 the orienting chapter heading "Moscow” was a relief. The acronyms, code names, nicknames (“clearly something that had to be earned” p. 28) secrecy and paranoia become tiring after a while as does the stereotyping of the East Germans "as if actors hired to play a role” p. 109. There is a lot of detail about guns, cars and the makeup of the various spy networks along with random acts of violence, feeding nostalgia in to American audiences, but by page 155 I had lost track of who was who and I didn’t care. 20 years after Red Rabbit author Marc Cameron revisits Tom Clancy’s style and I am sure fans will welcome this addition to the many that have been written since Clancy’s death but it did not stand alone and was a disappointing read.

Themes: Cold War, Spies, Thriller.

Sue Speck