Tales of Mi7: The Kramski CaseTales of Mi7: The Kramski Case by J.J. Ward

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A modern take on spy thrillers

This is the first in a series of modern day spy thrillers with three volumes so far. The author has merged the well known British security & secret services into a single organisation which is known to its operatives and those in the know as MI7. Outwardly the old designations (MI5 & MI6) are still used, this is a neat twist as it allows more scope for story telling.

The Kramski Case features an ensemble cast of believable characters that all have their own ways. The premise is that someone has been shooting paparazzi in Russia, the US and now Britain. So the British ask the Russians and Americans to supply someone for a tri-partite investigation. The case is solved remarkably quickly, but that doesn’t lead to an arrest as there isn’t enough evidence. Something that I think is probably remarkably realistic. However the team get involved in a deeper plot when trying to track down Kramski, who they are certain is the killer.

There isn’t an obvious main character in it, although one of the primary characters is killed about a third of the way through the book. This came as a great shock, because I had come to see that character as the main character in the story, so you expected that somehow they would survive and get out of the situation that they were in at the time (which up until the page before they were killed seemed eminently likely). After that each time a character got into a dangerous activity it had me wondering whether or not they were going to make it. So it increased the tension, which is a good thing in a thriller.

The story is pretty slow to start off, it takes until about page 80 to really start moving along, and it wasn’t until about page 150 that I really got into it. So some perseverance is definitely called for. Some of this is down to the nature of having a host of characters, the omnipotent narrator shows us scenes from at least six different viewpoints in the first third of the book, and a few more before the end of the story. All of these show us interesting information, and while I prefer show to tell in a story (don’t we all) I think a crisper more engaging start might have been possible if we’d just been told some of this stuff.

Overall I very much enjoyed the story and have added the two subsequent volumes to my to read list.

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