Theatre actor, director and writer Greg Mosse has turned spy novelist, seizing the opportunity presented by the covid lockdowns to pen his first internationally staged thriller. With a bestseller writer already in the household – Mosse’s wife Kate, best known for her 2005 novel Labyrinth – Mosse will hope that The Coming Darkness will be a notable debut when it is released in November. And for the most part it is, with a cryptic multi-player narrative, plenty of major set pieces and shadowy megalomaniacs wanting to take over the world.
Cover quotes from Lee Child and Anthony Horowitz won’t hurt either, but the latter is closer to the mark when he aligns Mosse’s style with Terry Hayes’ I Am Pilgrim (the much-anticipated follow-up to which has been covid-delayed). And Mosse’s almost film script-like style is redolent of Hayes’ multiple short scenes playing out in a larger scenario that only begins to come together much later in the book, as the reader follows the trajectory of characters, espionage missions and world events without quite knowing how they fit together.
There are always two major questions with a spy thriller; first does the writer pull all of the strands together in a satisfactory way at the end, and was the journey worth it? Mosse certainly fits the pieces into place well enough with a charged Bond and Bourne-influenced ending which some may find a little ludicrous after the intimate plotting of the early parts of the novel, but it certainly resolves everything with energy and style as Mosse uses his curt chapter length to cut between rapidly merging stories to great effect.
So that just leaves the journey. The early part of The Coming Darkness is hard work, there is a lot to establish, a huge cast of characters doing different things in various bits of the world and, as is the way with spy novels, only sometimes using their real names. So, it takes at least of third of the book before the reader feels settled both in terms of what is happening when and where, as well as relaxing into Mosse’s frenetic and punchy style.
The writer is certainly allergic to paragraphs, another consequence of writing for the stage, so it can be hard to grasp every useful detail in this breathless style of conveying information, particularly as lead character Alex Lamarque is involved in multiple sub-missions on his way to the big reveal. A cast list and perhaps some maps might be a useful way to visualise where things are happening as well as being able to look up a person last mentioned twenty snappy chapters ago.
But there is good mileage in the character of Alex who has a suitably complex personal life as well as a hero’s devotion to righting wrongs and saving the world. Mosse’s 2030s set novel may play its futurist hand lightly, but The Coming Darkness has considerable scope to expand the world the author has created. And. with its cinematic narrative style, don’t be surprised if you see Alex Lamarque on a screen before too long
Published by Moonflower Books on 10 November 2022