What I’ve always liked about William Boyd is that he never writes the same book twice. But now I’ve read two of his books in a row that were espionage thrillers and I see from his website that he’s been tapped to write a new James Bond novel (click here for the link to the BBC news story about this). Too much of a good thing? I don’t know. It’s not that Waiting for Sunrise (which wins most nondescript book title ever) is much like Restless, his 2007 novel about a retired Russian spy. But I like never quite knowing what I’m going to get from Boyd and I hope he keeps us guessing, once he’s done with the Bond thing.
Waiting for Sunrise features Lysander Rief whose dual Austrian/British citizenship and his training as an actor provide him with skills that prove useful to the British army during World War I – whether or not Lysander wants to employ his skills thusly is beside the point. British diplomats help him out of a dicey situation in Vienna; now in their debt he must repay them by undertaking a series of dangerous jobs for which he is uniquely suited but not particularly enthusiastic. I liked this spin on the “jaded spy” character who gains the upper hand over his puppetmasters. Lysander is not so much jaded as just disinclined; he does his duty mostly because he knows he is over a barrel and if he can screw with his handlers along the way, so much the better. And I always love it when help comes from unexpected quarters – in this case from Lysander’s eccentric retired uncle Hamo (hero of the Boer war), who proves he’s still a crack shot when Lysander needs him most.
(Book 18, 2012)