Red London
March 3, 2023
Book Review

Red London

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


Alma Katsu is the Internationally celebrated author of multiple literary horror novels, such as The Hunger, The Deep, and The Fervor.

However, she certainly is not a one-trick pony and has excelled as a spy novelist. This is the follow up second tale involving CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan as she treads through the murky waters of espionage on an international scale. This exhilarating tale can be devoured as a standalone, as Katsu seamlessly supplies any necessary backstory. Lyndsey has just deployed to London, to act as the handler for the treacherous Dmitri Tarasenko, a high placed asset in the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FBS). She will need to establish contact and meet with this devious new asset on a frequent basis. He was caught on U.S. soil in an operation and pledged his cooperation in return for his freedom. He has dangled the sought after prize of bringing in the murderous General Eugeni Morozov, who was responsible for the death of a CIA Chief of Station. After all, Lyndsey has gained fame and credibility with her handling of Russian assets.

On the eve of arriving at her new London apartment, she turns on the television to the breaking news of an armed attack on one of the mansions on “Billionaire’s Row” (actually known as The Bishops Avenue ). These swanky mansions are owned by the mostly absent mega-wealthy and the uber rich Russian Oligarchs. This attack was employed on the home of Mikhail Rotenberg, a wealthy Russian businessman, considered the wealthiest oligarch in London. He owns the Omni Bank, the largest private bank in Russia and reportedly has close ties to Viktor Kosygin, the new president of Russia. Kosygin has taken over from Vladimir Putin, recently ousted after his Ukraine fiasco. London is affectionately known by some as Londongrad, after the decade long infiltration and overrun of the expensive communities by Russian arrivistes. Lyndsey has a premonition that somehow she will be entangled in this mess. Surely this attack on Rotenberg’s household implies that he is no longer trusted or rather in good graces with the Russian government. Mikhail’s paranoia and fear are substantially elevated as he realizes that “Someone wants you dead.” Two of his professional bodyguards are killed during the attack. This was no ordinary robbery or home invasion—Mikhail’s day of reckoning has arrived—he will have to account for his sins and misdeeds.

The next morning, Lyndsey received an encoded message on her phone. She is requested to attend a meeting at MI6 headquarters. She is taken aback, since she is in London on special assignment, even unknown to the local CIA London station. At the meeting the events of last nights attack on Rotenberg are discussed. She is requested to aid in their investigation by insinuating herself into Mikhail’s household by befriending his aristocratic British wife, Emily.

It is known that she is trapped in a loveless marriage and subjected to continual emotional abuse, while being shunned and tolerated. She is a trophy wife, obtained for convenience and standing in the community. She has borne him the twins, Kit and Tatiana, which remains the main reason she maintains this semblance of normalcy … always fearful that he will somehow take them from her. Lyndsey is tasked to befriend her and gain her confidence , and judge her possibilities of turning on her husband, and provide insight into his financial empire and standing with the Russian government.

Alma Katsu weaves a complex narrative with twists and turns and unexpected reveals.

Katsu with her thirty-year career in the US government in positions of intelligence and foreign police crafts a masterful tale brimming with authentic tradecraft that can only be provided by an insider. Her tale is one of escalating suspense and intrigue that smoothly escalates into a page turner. Hopefully, this is not the last case for CIA Agent Lyndsey Duncan.

Thanks to NetGalley and D.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

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