“As soon as I discovered the Corona programme I knew I wanted to write about it. Corona really is where the modern world began. It represents the birth of mass surveillance.”

I was already to launch my review of this space race thriller in April last year when Red Corona got shunted into the new year by Corona virus. Enough of that, finally I can talk about this cracking historical adventure because it’s coming your way. Red Corona is a really entertaining read; it’s lightly written, action driven and fun. Glister has researched an area not much known and uncovered a relevant and intriguing story steeped in the machinations and deadly games of the Cold War: spying, murder and the race to dominate the planet and space. Perhaps Red Corona will attract some attention simply due to its title but readers will soon be recommending it for its exciting story; cross, double cross, cutting edge technology and the arms race.

What kind of trawler doesn’t go to sea to fish? The Shining Emerald sails from La Paz, anchors off the coast of California, the men are bored, the vessel just hangs around, waiting on the whim of its Russian passenger, a KGB officer who uses a pair of binoculars to stare into space. This is the third time the KGB officer has witnessed the American mission to recapture the latest NASA spy Corona satellite as it returns to earth. If the Hercules C-130 misses its prey the trawler will scoop up the satellite and Moscow will be happy.

July, 1961. Richard Knox was a hero to the Service only a few short weeks ago, he broke the Calder Hall spy ring infiltrating Sellafield. Two hours ago he was released from Leaconfield House after two days of ‘enhanced’ interrogation, suspected of involvement in an attack on MI5 Director General, James Holland. His career is over, then acting DG Gordon Manning has him picked up and delivered to Deptford. Knox knows he’s no traitor and he doesn’t trust Manning so he imagines the worst – rearrest, gaol. But Manning is standing over two bodies, a couple of Italian chancers, wheeler dealers with connections to the service. Manning tells Knox’s this is his last chance; find out why these two men are dead, who killed them and how it affects the service. That may just prove he’s still on the side of the angels. Knox is unsure whether this might just be a set up, a poison chalice, but what choice does he have but to see where the investigation goes?

Irina Valera moved to Povenets B, a secret scientific facility, three years ago, a former internment camp is near the Finnish border. The town is run by GRU, Russian military intelligence, in the guise of major Yuri Zukolev. Initially he was kind to Valera but since she has proved immune to his charms he has made her life hell, questioning her work and threatening her. Valera feels close to a breakthrough in her top secret research, then events take a turn that throws everything into turmoil.

Is there a spy in MI5? How is that connected to the satellite programme and Valera’s work in Russia, what is the mysterious CIA agent Abey Bennett doing in London? Everything is set to collide in Red Corona. Glister has taken some major events from the Cold War as the backdrop for his thriller and created a credible, grounded story that has an intelligent modern edge that is steeped in a long tradition of spy adventure stories. Fans of high octane thrillers will love this novel. The characters are intriguing and there are enough twists to satisfy a puzzle hardened reader.

All that glistens may not be gold but all that Glisters is, (sorry!). I can see this novel striking a chord, fun when we need some but a rollicking read at any time.

Review by Paul Burke

Point Blank, hardback, ISBN 9781786077790, 28/1/20