Rating – 3/5
Set in 1992, Warsaw, Poland, a string of brutal murders becomes an international case when it is revealed that the victims might have been couriers smuggling out nuclear material from the erstwhile USSR. The FBI sends agent Jay Porter to aid in the investigation; he is joined by CIA officer Kurt Crawford. Collectively, they must thwart a portable atomic bomb from reaching the wrong hands. Are they successful? Read The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith to find out.
The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith is a deeply atmospheric police procedural-cum-espionage novel. The author’s exhaustive research on Poland and Russia shines through. Thanks to the author’s descriptive writing, I could visualize the grim, dark landscape of Poland. Further, the story flows smoothly. It’s not a rip-roaring read, but it’s not a slow burner either.
The highlight of this novel, for me, was agent Jay Porter. He doesn’t display any macho aggressiveness, nor does he steamroll his way into the investigation carried out by the Polish authorities. He understands it’s their turf and readily assists them in any way he can. His relationship with Lilka was endearing and displayed his vulnerable, affectionate nature. Moreover, The Fourth Courier features a gay, black character without giving him a stereotypical treatment.
The best thing about this novel is it’s a simple plot set in the 90’s era, devoid of extreme gore we have come to expect from books of this genre.
Unfortunately, for me, this is where the good things end. A great premise and a good book cover are great ingredients to capture my attention, but at the end of the day, I need a good story to read. The Fourth Courier fails to deliver on this front. Initially, I enjoyed the story, but as it progressed, the simplicity of the plot soon became its bane.
In my opinion, the lack of credible antagonists made this story tepid for me. The plot seemed juvenile and failed to excite me. The loopholes in the plot cannot be ignored. One of them is how a person who has risen the ranks through lies and deception could hatch such a foolish plot. There is one more loophole, which I can’t describe as that would be a spoiler. The epilogue lays the seed for a sequel. Hopefully, that will be a better read.
Nevertheless, crime fiction fans seeking a simple, clean story (where the loose ends are tied up neatly in the climax) can read this novel.
How important is a strong and credible antagonist to you? Let me know in the comments below.
Book details – eARC, 320 pages, To be released on April 3rd, 2019, by Arcade.
The author sent me a digital copy of his book. I opted to provide an honest review.