Re-inventing the spy story for the 21st Century. John Le Carre meets Jason Bourne! Daniel Marchant, a suspended MI6 officer, is running the London Marathon. He is also running out of time. A competitor is strapped with explosives. If he drops his pace, everyone around him will be killed, including the US ambassador to London. Marchant tries to thwart the attack, but is he secretly working for the terrorists? There are those in America who already suspect Marchant of treachery. Just like they suspected his late father, the former head of MI6, who was removed from his job by the CIA. Marchant is treated like an enemy combatant - rendition, waterboarding - but he has friends who are disillusioned with America's war on terror. Friends like Leila, his beautiful MI6 colleague and lover, and Sir Marcus Fielding, the new Chief who resents the White House's growing influence in Whitehall. On the run from the CIA, Marchant is determined to prove his father's innocence in a personal journey that takes him from Wiltshire, via Poland, to India. It was here that the former MI6 chief once met with one of the world's most wanted terrorists, and where the new President of America is shortly to visit. But was that meeting proof of a mole within MI6 or the best penetration of Al Qaeda the West has ever had? And was Marchant's father the keeper of another, darker secret? In a compelling thriller that updates the spy novel for the 21st century -- think John Le Carre meets Jason Bourne - Marchant discovers the shocking realities of personal betrayal and national loyalty, and that love can be the biggest risk of all.
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Jon Stock is currently Weekend editor of the Telegraph. He is the author of two novels, 'The Riot Act' and 'The Cardamom Club', and is also a columnist with The Week magazine in India. He lives in Wiltshire with his wife and three young children.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Dead Spy Running Chapter 1
A bright Blackheath morning and it was already hot, too hot for twenty-six miles. Daniel Marchant scanned the crowd and wondered again why he was about to run a marathon. Thousands of people were stretching in the early sunshine, massaging limbs, sipping at water. It was like the stillness before battle. A woman in a baseball cap strapped an iPod to her arm; the man beside him tied and retied his laces. Another runner poured water over his hair and shook it like a dog, droplets catching the light. Whatever it takes, Marchant thought. In his case, too much Scotch the night before and not enough training.
‘One last try,’ he said, turning to Leila. She was sitting on the grass, leaning back on her hands, staring straight ahead. Why was she taking it so seriously, he thought, as he strolled over to join a long queue for the Portaloos. If the going got tough, they could walk, enjoy the day out. Wasn’t that how she had sold it to him? But he knew that would never happen: they would crawl before they walked. It was a stubbornness they shared, a bloody-mindedness he could sometimes do without.
He inched forward in the queue. The sweet smell of Deep Heat hung heavy in the spring air, reminding Marchant of school changing rooms, the similar imminence of pain. He always felt like this before they went out running in Battersea Park, only for his resentment to subside when the endorphins kicked in; that and the sound of her rhythmic breathing, her easy footfall. He still wondered why he was about to run twenty-six miles, though, and at such short notice. Their longest training run had been the weekend before, eighteen miles down the towpath to Greenwich and back. But how could he have said no when he barely realised she was asking him? That was her job, after all: persuading people to do what they shouldn’t, to say what was meant to remain unsaid.
After queuing for five minutes, Marchant changed his mind and returned to Leila, who had stripped down to her running kit. From the day they had first met, he had promised himself not to fall in love with her, but she had never made it easy. Today was no exception. Her limbs were long, but she touched her toes with ease, shorts tightening against toned muscles. He looked away at the hot-air balloons behind her, swaying in the gentle breeze, desperate to rise up into the brilliant blue sky. In front of them lorries were parked up like a military convoy, piled high with runners’ plastic bags, ready to be transported across London to the finish line.
Marchant took both their bags and handed them in to a marshal. He tried to imagine how he would feel when they were reunited with them again, three, more like four, hours later. Despite his protests, he knew that it was the right thing to be doing. The training, however inadequate, had kept him sane during the last few weeks, helping him to focus on what must be done.
‘Too many people,’ Leila said, pushing hair out of her eyes as Marchant rejoined her. He noticed she was holding her mobile phone. He followed her gaze over towards the main start, where an army of 35,000 runners was now massing. Afterwards, he thought, the dead and the wounded would be laid out in St James’s, wrapped in shiny foil.
‘It’ll be fine, a stroll in the park,’ Marchant said. ‘Just like you promised.’ He put a hand on her shoulder as he stretched one calf muscle, searching her large eyes. It was a hint of the exotic that had first attracted him, the dark, lustrous hair, her olive skin. ‘You’re not nervous, are you?’ he asked, trying to sound bullish. There was suddenly something distracted about her, an unsettling distance. She was usually so upfront, eye to eye.
‘Not about the running,’ she said.
‘Cheltenham picked up some chatter last night,’ she said quietly, looking around.
‘About the marathon?’ Marchant kept his hand on her shoulder, face close to hers, stretching the other calf. Leila nodded. ‘Now you tell me.’
‘And you know I shouldn’t,’ she said, pushing him away. ‘Paul’s just called, heard I was taking part.’
‘Paul? What’s he monitoring these days? Runners’ World chatrooms?’
‘Come on, Daniel. You know I can’t.’
Marchant had been out of MI6 for two months now, suspended on his case officer’s full pay. Leila knew how angry he still felt about everything that had happened: his father’s death, the rumours that wouldn’t go away. She knew the toll it was taking on his health, too, the late, solitary vigils at the pub. Marchant’s youthful features were tiring around the eyes, a greyness starting to fleck his dirt-blond hair. He was only twenty-nine, but sometimes, in a certain light, Leila looked at him and thought she saw his father.
‘Remember not to go too fast at the beginning,’ she said, changing tack as they jogged over to join the crowded start. Leila still worked for MI6, although she often wondered why. The Service was slowly killing them both.
‘That shouldn’t be a problem.’ Marchant surveyed the sea of people around him, more carefully now. ‘Remind me why we’re doing this?’
‘Because you love running and because you love me.’ Leila brushed her lips against his cheek as a helicopter arced across the South London sky. ‘More than you should.’
She had never kissed him like that before. Earlier she had woken him very differently, pulling him up through the languid hours of dawn with a passion that had almost frightened him.
‘Shouldn’t we be saving our energy for the marathon?’ he had whispered afterwards, the rising sun filtering through the blinds of her Canary Wharf apartment. His eyes ached at the thought of all that daylight.
‘My mother always told me to live each day as if it was the last.’
‘My dad used to say something similar, only in Latin.’
She lay with her head on his chest, eyes open, stroking his stomach. A police siren faded somewhere near the Thames.
‘I’m so sorry about your father.’
Later he had found her in the kitchen, stirring a saucepan of porridge for them both as she looked out of the window towards the O2 Dome. There was an empty bottle of whisky on the granite-top island, next to a couple of stacked dishes from the previous night and the remains of a big bowl of pasta. He pedalled the chrome bin and quietly slid the bottle in, his eyes on Leila. She was wearing knickers and an old London Marathon T-shirt with a slogan on the back: ‘Never again…until the next time’. The whisky had been a mistake, he realised that now. The next time he would realise earlier. The pain behind his eyes was spreading.
‘What’s this?’ he asked, picking up a single sheet of paper from the island.
She turned, and then looked back out of the window. ‘You’ve never really been religious, have you?’ she asked.
‘Hey, I was a Sufi once, in my year off in India.’
‘Is this a Bahá’í thing?’
‘It’s not a thing, it’s a prayer. My mother used to make me say it every morning, before I went to school.’
Leila wasn’t particularly religious either, but she had grown interested in her mother’s Bahá’í faith in recent months. Marchant’s own knowledge of it was patchy, based on an internal MI5 briefing that had crossed his desk about Dr David Kelly, the weapons inspector and Bahá’í member who had been found dead in a wood in Oxfordshire.
He looked at the sheet again, and read a passage of the prayer out aloud: ‘“Armed with the power of thy name, nothing can ever hurt me, and with thy love in my heart, all the world’s afflictions can in no wise alarm me.” Is it reassuring?’
‘She said it would protect us.’
Marchant thought he could do with a little protection now, as he looked up at the blur of helicopter blades above Blackheath. He suddenly felt claustrophobic, pressed down upon from above as well as from all sides. There was no room for personal space any more, normal rules of behaviour no longer applied. A runner next to him fumbled at his shorts with an empty plastic drinking bottle. Another hung his head, clearing one nostril, then the other. Somebody else yelled with joy (or was it fear?). The crowd responded, calling back like restless animals. They were all part of the larger herd now, surging forward as one towards the start line.
Marchant instinctively flexed his elbows as people pushed in, trampling on his old running shoes. For a few seconds he lost Leila, then he spotted her again, five yards ahead, turning back to look for him. Despite himself, he loved her more than ever in that fleeting moment, her beauty framed by a thousand strangers. He moved up alongside, squeezed her hand. She smiled back, but her look was far away. The call from Paul Myers had unsettled her.
Above them two helicopters now circled, the drone of their blades more menacing than ever. There was a new sound, too, top notes cutting through the background noise. Marchant couldn’t work out what it was at first, but then he realised. Runners everywhere were synchronising and calibrating, making final adjustments to their bleeping stopwatches and heart monitors. He glanced instinctively at the hands of his own silent watch. In the same instant, the starter’s klaxon hooted, oddly hesitant, an uncertain call to arms. The only thing Marchant could do was run.
It was fifty minutes into the marathon that Marchant first noticed him, tucked behind a smal...
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Book Description Blue Door, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0007300697