Jack of Spies

Jack of Spies

by David Downing

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Overview

Set on the eve of the First World War, across oceans and continents, steamliners and cross-country trains, David Downing’s complex and thrilling new espionage novel takes us all the way back to the dawn of that most fascinating of 20th century characters—the spy.

It is 1913, and those who follow the news closely can see the world is teetering on the brink of war. Jack McColl, a Scottish car salesman with an uncanny ear for languages, has always hoped to make a job for himself as a spy. As his sales calls take him from city to great city—Hong Kong to Shanghai to San Francisco to New York—he moonlights collecting intelligence for His Majesty's Secret Service, but British espionage is in its infancy and Jack has nothing but a shoestring budget and the very tenuous protection of a boss in far-away London. He knows, though, that a geopolitical catastrophe is brewing, and now is both the moment to prove himself and the moment his country needs him most.

Unfortunately, this is also the moment he begins to realize what his aspiration might cost him. He understands his life is at stake when activities in China suddenly escalate from innocent data-gathering and casual strolls along German military concessions to arrest warrants and knife attacks. Meanwhile, a sharp, vivacious American suffragette journalist has wiled her way deep into his affections, and it is not long before he realizes that her Irish-American family might be embroiled in the Irish Republican movement Jack's bosses are fighting against. How can he choose between his country and the woman he loves? And would he even be able to make such a choice without losing both?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616958862
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Series: Jack McColl Series , #1
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 589,655
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

David Downing grew up in suburban London. He is the author of One Man’s Flag, The Red Eagles, and six books in the John Russell espionage series set in WWII Berlin: Zoo Station, Silesian Station, Stettin Station, Potsdam Station, Lehrter Station, and Masaryk Station. He lives with his wife, an American acupuncturist, in Guildford, England.

Read an Excerpt

At the foot of the hill, Tsingtau’s Government House stood alone on a slight mound, its gabled upper-floor windows and elegant corner tower looking out across the rest of the town. Substantial German houses with red-tiled roofs peppered the slope leading down to the Pacific beach and pier; beyond them the even grander buildings of the commercial district fronted the bay and its harbors. Away to the right, the native township of Taipautau offered little in the way of variety—the houses were smaller, perhaps a bit closer together, but more European than classically Chinese. In less than two decades, the Germans had come, organized, and recast this tiny piece of Asia in their own image. Give them half a chance, Jack McColl mused, and they would do the same for the rest of the world.
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Jack of Spies"
by .
Copyright © 2018 David Downing.
Excerpted by permission of Soho Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Jack of Spies 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having finished the WWII spy series I looked forward to this book focused on the Great War run up and the English spy McColl. This was disappointingly dull and lacked the character development of the prior well written WWII series.
connie37 More than 1 year ago
One of the most boring books I have not read in a long time. Not read because I had to give up. Let me enjoy Alan Furst, Charles McCarry, and many others. 
Patarma6 More than 1 year ago
An astute view of the nature of "intelligence" gathering as it was practiced in the early days of the 20th century and the "hum-drum" routines that collected the pieces of the puzzle that were the foundations of national apprehensions and expectations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I’m always leery of espionage fiction because I know quite a bit about the real subject as well as things like weaponry. Unless it’s intended to be James Bond-type slapstick, I cannot tolerate most spy tales. I was attracted to this book by its setting, though, and I wasn’t disappointed. Personal relationships are the thing it seems most authors struggle with most, and that was true of this book as well. I suspect that’s because all readers will view any relationship through the prism of their own experiences and what may seem plausible and realistic to one will strike another as unlikely. Beyond that, and which is only a minor criticism, I enjoyed the story. The history was accurate, or where it wasn’t it was believable, the backgrounds drew me in, and I could care about what happened to the characters. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
Douglas McCaleb 20 days ago
A few factual errors. Who can blame a British protagonist for mistaking the Missouri River for the Mississippi River?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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MissDaisyAnne More than 1 year ago
Source: Free copy from Soho Press in exchange for a review. All reviews are expressed from my own opinions and feelings. Summary: Jack McColl, is a middle age traveling salesman in 1913. His ancestry is Scottish. When the book begins he is in China, stalking German's for information about what they're up to in a possible war in Europe. Jack's "real" job is intelligence for the British government. Intelligence and espionage is in its infancy. Jack's pay for the work is minimal and traveling is lengthy. Jack of Spies, is the first book in what will be series on the British spy Jack McColl, during the period of time before World War I and during World War I.  Ground work begins in Jack of Spies. What kind of personality Jack has, his talents and abilities, weak points; also, the history of intelligence during this era is explored. Jack of Spies, gives a panoramic view of the world in 1913-1914. From China to Japan, from the west coast to the east coast of America, England and Ireland, Germany, and Mexico. Significant events from the countries are depicted, for example the uprising and bloodshed in Dublin, Ireland. My Thoughts: I love all of the "Station" series written by David Downing. When I found out his new book, Jack of Spies, had been published, I was pronto to read and review it. When reading the first book in a series, it is important to take in to consideration the first book is a foundation for the future books. It is not a puzzle piece standing alone, but is the first in which several others will then be placed, all bringing about a full and clear image. I feel Jack of Spies is a splendid first story.  Jack is not a spy compared to what we see on modern film. He is at times floundering, unprepared, anxious, lonely, average. Humanity is shown in his imperfect character. This is a captivating way to lay-out a character, because he is fallible, and thus we are not quite sure he will "make-it."   His friend with benefits is assertive, sensual, prepared, young. In some ways she is the opposite of our hero Jack. A spectrum of the world in 1913-1914. I loved the essence of all that was captured in how people in other countries lived, their fear of war, political unrest in Ireland, availability of newspapers highlighting information available from all pivots of the world, a changing perspective of women in regards to equality and rights. Contrasting views are seen. For example, a young female prostitute in China who is unable to secure a job doing anything else, versus an American woman that is an independent-minded-feminist journalist.  Spy techniques at this time is minimal. A spy wanting information finds someone willing to be paid to "find out what they can". Sometimes those who accept money from you might also be accepting money from the enemy. It's a rag tag game
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
Having concluded the popular “Station” series, which covered the years from prior to World War II to the period following its end, David Downing has now turned his attention to World War I. One thing each series has in common is that the protagonist is a spy, but in this new effort, Jack McColl begins as a part-time contractor for an incipient intelligence arm in HRH Majesty’s Admiralty. It is difficult to imagine in this age of the CIA, MI5 and the KGB (in its various incarnations) that there was a time without established spy agencies. In any event, the story begins when Jack, his brother and a co-worker embark on a world trip beginning in China to sell a British luxury automobile. Jack is asked to gather information on German activities along the way. In China he gathers intelligence on gun emplacements in the German concession, as well naval plans. Then on to San Francisco, where Irish separatists seem to be plotting with Indians seeking independence and Germans apparently supporting their efforts, in an attempt to weaken Great Britain in any future conflict. Next on to New York, after which he is sent to Mexico, where the oil supply to the British navy is being threatened to be cut off. Along the way, beginning in China, he starts a torrid love affair with a liberated woman (for the times). Unfortunately, her family is involved in the quest for Irish independence, which unduly complicates the relationship, but does help Jack attain a permanent position as an agent. Jack’s development as a character begins slowly, but builds as his adventures take him (and the reader) forward, and we learn more about his thinking. The scope of the novel is wide, and the book is deeply researched, an ability for which the author is well-known. Presumably, the forthcoming volumes will take us into the mud and trenches of France, and this reader (and hopefully many others) will be looking forward to reading it. Meanwhile, “Jack” is recommended.