The Clown Service
The Clown Service by Guy Adams
The Department: Section 37 Station office, Wood Green
The Boss: August Shining, an ex-Cambridge, cold war-era spy
The Mission: Charged with protecting Great Britain and its interests from paranormal terrorism
The Threat: An old enemy has returned, and with him operation Black Earth, a soviet plan to create the ultimate insurgents by re-animating the dead.
A while back I read The Good, the Bad and the Infernal from Guy Adams, and with that books he had won me over and since then I have been keeping a keen eye on his books. When I saw that Del Rey was publishing his new book, The Clown Service, I was quite happy! What I have come to learn from Guy Adams' books is that they are creative, quick, clever and are a pleasure to read. With the Clown Service, Guy Adams ventures into the field of espionage. What really made the promise of this book for me was the "less is more" kinda blurb, those brief statements tell a lot but still keep enough hidden...
If you look at the name of the book The Clown Service, you might have been expecting a more humorous story, but this isn't really the case. The Clown Service is your urban fantasy, espionage-crime book, but don't expect any clowns with red noses to be running around making balloon animals. The way that the story is shown is actually quite dark and has a definite unique ring to it. The Clown Service takes place in the day and age London as we know, but with a dark supernatural twist, however not going so far as with urban sorcerers etc but keeping the emphasis on the current world as is and only introducing the supernatural threats in the backdrop of the story. By showing the world in this way, combined with the dark setting of the story (cold war references, Russian spies, Black Earth) gave a fresh feel to it. This all felt like blending the extra into the ordinary.
But where then does the The Clown Service get its name from? It's the name given for Section 37. When the cases get to weird for the normal British Intelligence services, only one section is left: Section 37. They deal with the supernatural, keeping Britain and its interests safe, fighting dragons, animated dead, tackling your rampant psychic and the like. And this is where the story of The Clown Service begins. The main protagonist, Tom Greene, who has screwed his previous mission now finds himself being reassigned to Section 37. But being from a normal intelligence service, Tom hasn't got a clue as to how the dealings go about in Section 37. Tom is shown as a bit of failure in the beginning of the book, having let a prisoner escaping because he was knocked out cold by a bust of Beethoven, and in the initial start up of the story he does hold this a bit. Added to this is the rookieness of being new to the supernatural, only a handful know about these threats. The great thing is, is that Tom doesn’t discard this as something that is impossible but takes it in and considers it. Soon enough you see Tom getting acquainted with the dealing of Section 37, as far as that is possible when dealing with the supernatural, and he does regain his confidence and steadfastness. In the end this rooted him nicely on his spot in Section 37 and in the book itself.
Next to Tom, there are quite a few other characters that you get to learn throughout the book and the most import ones are Augustus Shining and Olag Krishnin. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Augustus, he is not your average boss, but then again he doesn't have an average job... His character brings in a lot of quick-wittedness into the story, he is a former cold era spy and has expertise in the supernatural field. With Tom being the newest employee of his, he feels himself obliged to lead everything in the correct way and he starts briefing Tom about his past and the general stuff of Section 37, and this is some cool stuff. But Augustus past is tied to one other character, Olag Krishnin and also the bad guy in The Clown Service, now I won't elaborate too much on his character as it would spoil to much. But the way that Guy Adams describes him in the beginning of the book, being a ruthless, taking-no-no's for an answer guy really helped set the dark mood and the threat of him in this story straight. And even more so when you learn about what he can do. Overall the connection between Augustus and Krishnin, was set up in a great way and helped getting the story that much further, as this again is all connected to "The Threat" the Black Earth. You can make up on the synopsis as to what that is. and it brilliant.
I already mentioned above that The Clown Service is a supernatural espionage thriller. But the supernatural aspect of the book isn't one that leaps of the pages, instead Guy Adams weaves this into the background of the whole story, creating by this an even greater feeling of what all might be possible. This supernatural is shown by Krishnin, the introducing chapters show that Krishnin can do some cool stuff, but it is also something that I didn’t really associate with the supernatural, more something of him being a good spy. Soon enough you know that it is a special gift and that it helps him in numerous way, and you learn just how powerful this can be. I really liked how Guy Adams is using this aspect to (un)liven up the storyline itself. With not letting it take over the complete story but showing it in dosed amounts will keep you on the edge of your seat, wanting to find out what happens next. Because with this you never know what is hiding behind the next corner.
The story of The Clown Service is written in a great manner, the first thing that falls to note is the way that Guy Adams writes his story. It’s clear and to the point. But Guy Adams also used the lay out the book is a great way. With The Clown Service being a espionage book, there are the occasional sheets of case files that give more background information about several characters and events and show how the dealing were done in the past. This felt just spot on in the whole setting of the book and really bolstered the idea of a espionage book. And when you thought that the story was over, which actually ends in a interesting manner, Guy Adams introduces the “additional files” which makes a lot of things fall into place. Though the story of The Clown Service might be complex, especially with all the new things and timelines that Guy Adams introduces, it is a true pleasure to read. It’s unique and fresh and I am crossing my fingers that this book will be turned into a series.
The Clown Service is a weird and interesting book (meaning this in the best way of course). Guy Adams shows his take on urban fantasy and the supernatural and produces a fresh and interesting story; venturing into the crime and espionage of the 21st century with cold war spies and villains. From the characters of Tom Greene with his introduction to the supernatural to his boss and the villains of the story, they all have they own characteristics and personalities that really make them stand out of the story and for specific characters they have a certain “thing” about themselves that make them just interesting. Their histories and their action make them speak for themselves, it’s hard to say, but characterizing characters is really a forte of Guy Adams. The whole backdrop of the story, taking place in an supernatural 21st century, but not letting the supernatural really take over the story keep you on your edge as you never know what might happen. This first venture into the espionage produced an superb story, and I hope that we will see more of Section 37 in the near future! Guy Adams just proves himself once again, his stories are great and whole lot of fun to read.