For 25 years, British journalist Gerald Seymour has been writing the best espionage thrillers in the business. His stories have the detail, depth and intelligence of the more popular John LeCarre and Len Deighton, but they are far more readable and action packed.
That should have made him more commercially successful, but the publishing biz works in mysterious ways. While Seymour is popular in Britain, he rarely does better than fair to middling in U.S. sales.
Perhaps the fact that Seymour rarely dealt with the popular vision of MI-5 and the CIA engaging in trench coat warfare against the KGB during the Cold War made him less marketable. But in real life, it was in the nasty corners of the Cold War - like South Africa, Afghanistan, and Northern Ireland - where the real shooting happened, and that was where Seymour focused.
That's the main reason why Seymour has made the easiest transition to the post Cold War world, where grim little side conflicts, not superpower rivalry, are now front and center.
"A Line in the Sand," is a "High Noon"-like novel of excruciating suspense. Frank Perry is a consulting engineer living a quiet life in a small English coastal town with his new wife and her son. Only he knows that his life is a lie.
In his real life, Perry was Gavin Hughes, a high-priced salesman helping to break the embargo on industrial sales to Iran by dealing equipment that could be used to manufacture chemical weapons. Perry was caught and cut a deal with British Intelligence that led to the massacre of the Iranian scientists working on the project - and a contract put on his head.
But Iranian intelligence has discovered Perry is really Hughes and has sent its best, most fanatical assassin - code named Anvil - to get revenge. An American FBI agent, Duane Seitz, who has been tracking Anvil since an embassy bombing, uncovers the plot.
The Brits try to get Perry to move, but he has had enough of the anonymous nightmare of starting over. He has friends and a family and roots, and he figures it's time to make a stand.
This is fine with Seitz, who believes this is a good way to flush Anvil into the open.
But it doesn't thrill the various British agencies that must now spend a good chunk of their budgets providing security for Perry and that have more to lose if Perry is killed than they have to gain by bagging Anvil.
Meanwhile, the life Perry sought to preserve crumbles quickly as his wife thinks she deserved some kind of warning that her husband had a death sentence hanging over his head, and his former friends try to chase him out of town before the shooting starts.
Soon, Perry - who was only trying to take control of his life - is the Judas Goat staked out as bait, while diplomats, cops, local bureaucrats, spies and the military squabble over turf and agendas.
"A Line in the Sand" is unnervingly realistic. Seymour's detailed knowledge of how various security agencies work - including Iranian military intelligence and its support of terrorism - and the way he makes even the smallest characters into well-rounded human beings give the story an immediacy that heightens the suspense to rare levels.
"A Line in the Sand" is a novel with bite, not only about the ambiguities of the dark side of politics and national security but also about human nature. Don't miss it.