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Having read several spy novels recently I have decided that it is perhaps the hardest crime genre to write. When thinking of what a spy is, most people will automatically stir up thoughts of James Bond skiing over a cliff only to save himself with a Union Flag Parachute! Having read several spy books I have found that this is far from the truth. Many authors in the genre try and keep the events in their books somewhat true to life so the lifestyle of a secret agent is less about sleeping with gorgeous women and more about filling in the correct paper work. Can Paul Eddys debut novel, Flint, straddle the difficult gulf between realism and excitement?
Grace Flint is left hideously disfigured when an undercover sting goes wrong. She is beaten badly and her face is shattered, but at least she is alive; unlike her partner. Over the next audacious year she undergoes plastic surgery by some of the worlds leading surgeons and she is left with her old beautiful looks, but cold and unmoving. Flints new face acts as a metaphor for her internal feelings as on the outside she looks like she is coping, but inside she is in pain. Therefore, when she is forced to once more go undercover she is none too happy. However, her investigation leads to clues towards the whereabouts of the man who beat her and the shadowy Enterprise Group that he will kill to protect. Can Flint overcome her fears to capture the killer and expose the group when she has no one to trust?
Flint is a book packed with potential, but fails by a wide margin. Starting with the positive aspects of the book, Eddy has created in Grace Flint a fantastic central character that is both motivated and complicated. If she had just been a fierce female officer it would have been compelling enough, but by having her go through such a hideous ordeal there is far more going on in her mind than with most characters. The sections of the book that follow Flint in her hunt are the best by a fair margin. She has a dogged personality that means she goes head on into danger, but we know that she is extremely fearful inside. You get to care about her wellbeing early on in the novel and Eddy is able to successfully use this sympathy to manipulate the reader throughout.
With such high praise for the central protagonist why have I only awarded this novel 2 stars? It is due to the rest of the book that does not actually contain Flint about 2/3 of it! The two faults lie in the boring support cast and Eddys hideous narrative structure. Flint is a book about different groups trying to catch up with Grace Flint and discover what she knows not about the woman herself. Therefore, large parts of the book follow the British intelligence agencies methods for tracking down a rouge agent. Sound exciting? Its not. Like I suggested in my first paragraph a lot of the hunting is done by middle age grey men searching online databases and interviewing people. When Eddy does try to introduce a bit of action it seems out of place. When you compare the sections that star Flint they just highlight how missing she is from the rest of the book.
Having poor side characters is a big enough problem but it pales in comparison to the errors Eddy made in narrative construction. The vast majority of Flints sections are told via the investigators studying evidence i.e. a story within a story. This is an acceptable level of difficulty as the reader understands that the Flint is missing and several people are after her whereabouts. The problems arise when in Flints sections as she too reminisces about events i.e. a story, within a story, within a story. At this point it all starts to get too confusing and you send up not knowing if you are reading about the present, the recent past, or the far past. The inability of Eddy to create a cohesive narrative means that the book is inherently broken and even the great sections about Flint can not save it.
It is a real shame that Eddy failed in the finer parts of story development as there is a good spy novel hidden within the book. Large parts of the novel concentrate on dull exploration and are undermined by Flints sections which are tense and action packed. If Eddy had created a straight story about Flints hunt for a killer the book would have worked a lot better. Unfortunately, this is not the case and around half the book was either boring, confusing, or unreadable. With at least two more books in the series (which I will not be reading) I hope that Eddy decides to concentrate on Grace Flint and make a good action spy thriller.
Author: Paul Eddy
Price: amazon uk - £5.99
play.com - £5.99