Thursday, November 13, 2014

Heard: "Watchman" by Ian Rankin

Heard: Watchman by Ian Rankin, 1988 (2007 audio). Overdrive download.

Narrated by the great John Lee. I've not read or heard many Rankin novels. I likely chose this one after searching for Lee narrations.

Miles Flint is a low level spy for Britain's domestic spy agency, MI5. Miles is a "watchman", a surveillance specialist. He enjoys his job and considers himself an expert. He has no interest in moving to another department or taking promotion.

Miles is married with a college student son.  His job requires secrecy and his specialty prizes invisibility. He's taken those behaviors into his personal life and his quiet behavior has been driving his wife away. Miles has started to avoid going home at night. "I have paperwork to do. I should assist this surveillance team. I need to spend time on this report." Miles loves beetles. Miles wonders what kind of beetle each colleagues and friend would be.

One night Miles helps out a team tracking a suspected Arab assassin. Miles takes the point and follows the Arab into a hotel bar. Miles sits near the Arab as the Arab and another man discuss business issues. Miles is very relaxed, the neighboring conversation sounds innocent, this operation is a bust. A prostitute then sits at Miles's table and chats him up.  Miles banters with her. The Arab goes to the toilet. A second man leaves the toilet wearing the Arab's clothes. Shit.  A couple hours later an Israeli arms dealer is murdered.

Shit hits the fan for Miles and MI5. The men in the surveillance unit are under scrutiny and staked out in the sun by their commander. But, Miles recalls the Arab looking back at Miles as the Arab left for the toilet. Miles recalls a sly smile as the prostitute spoke to Miles. Someone tipped off the assassin.

Meanwhile, Miles wife has been having a (so far) chaste affair with Miles's long-term colleague, I-Forget-His-Name.  Miles finds out. Miles moves out. Miles is not an investigator. Miles starts wondering if a mole in MI5 tipped the Arab. Why were some people on his team kept and others canned? What's going on? Miles thinks of beetles. Miles approaches the home of a suspected Provisional IRA unit and is caught as a suspected prowler.

Miles is sent to Northern Ireland with a "Take this job or you're cashiered after your two fuck-ups." Miles joins some secret Army or RUC killers. Miles and killers raid a Provisional-owned business. Killers are there to kill Irish. Killers are also there to kill Miles. Miles escapes with a IRA man. Miles and IRA Man make fragile truce. IRA Man connected to the English mess. Miles starts putting things together with the help of IRA Man and interrogation of I-Forget-His-Name.

1. Spy novel. I liked it. Hard to not like anything narrated by John Lee.
2. Brief introduction by Rankin on this reprint. This was his second novel and he thought he really jumped around and went back and forth with different scenes.
3. Boredom of surveillance. Miles makes a drastic change from passive watcher to active vengeance.
4. Miles finds out he is not as good a surveillance man as he thought.

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