Book Review: Kill with a Borrowed Knife or Agent Ai

Kill with a Borrowed Knife or Agent Ai by Michael Wreford 

China, the eve of the September 11 attacks. A powerful cyber weapon is about to be released. Only one man can stop it …

Journalist and SIS (MI6) contract agent George Quant arrives on the run in Beijing. Estranged from Karen, his Moscow-based handler, George is thrust into Asia’s clandestine underworld of gentleman spies, nefarious business people, and murderous Party members. With his past catching up with him, George discovers that not everyone in China can be trusted.

At the centre of George Quant’s dilemma lie two men: investor-adventurer Pierce de Havilland, and Karen’s trusted contact known only as “Ho”. Both successful in their own right, the rivals offer diverging perspectives on China’s future. As their intentions grow clearer, George recognises that an important choice looms—adopting the life of a millionaire fugitive, or accepting the call of a higher moral imperative.

From his initial assignment in Cambodia in the late ‘90s—between the drinks, drugs and dangerous card games—George’s high octane adventures spill across London, Moscow, and Beijing, before culminating in Hong Kong. Alarmed by Karen’s increasing demands and damaged by her unrequited love, he begins to search for a way to disentangle himself from an expanding web of deception.

I mostly read Science Fiction and Fantasy but that doesn't mean that I don't like the other genres, more on the contrary I enjoy them a lot. So when Michael Wreford approached me asking if I would like to read his book Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai, I was very excited, it had been a while since I read a espionage book. The synopsis of Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai already gives a great promise of a rollercoaster/non-stop spy story and reading a bit more about the background of the writer, only further bolstered that Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai had to be a great read. The book is written by Michael Wreford, however he is not one person but a writing duo that goes by this name. Really like double agent stuff! They have an impressive background which they aren't afraid to show. 

The story of Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai focuses on George Qaunt, also known by his agent handle: Agent Ai an journalist and MI6 special agent. George has an big history when it comes down to espionage. He was running away from several problems in his past and wound up in Beijing, hoping to escape his past and perhaps start anew. Well if only... The journalist part is actually his cover job, when George is in Beijing he makes friends, friend in high places, where he finds that keeping loyalty too and getting their jobs done proof more demanding than he dared to have thought. A big event soon becomes apparent, a big cyber attack that could change everything is being planned and there is currently only one person able to stop it, George. Obtaining an antiviral programme to stop this cyberattack from happening isn't easy and it cost him a lot but just when George thought he has the solution he is once again thrown in a mix of intrigue, this time between the British and the Americans, who both have specific interests... and again this isn't the last thing that causes the story to changes directions as several friend in high place that George made in China aren't also all that they had first made out to be... 

When it comes down to espionage stories, they need to inspire a fast paced world for me, a world in constant motion and where every move results into a reaction. This is precisely what Michael Wreford does in the story of Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai. It's non-stop action, that readily gets you to the edge of your seat. 

I often have reservations when a book is written by two authors, mainly because no two author actually have the same writing style when it comes to showing the narration. In the case of Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai I didn't got the feeling of two separate stories at all, instead the story is nicely structured and written in one single way. Also since Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is a fast paced story it was important not to loose the grip on the storyline itself and again Michael Wreford manages to keep some restraint and control over the story by alternating the current storyline with that of several events that highlight the past of Agent Ai. Better even is that by alternating the storyline the pace does reduce in speed allowing you to process some of the events that happened. 

On minor thing though, dont get me wrong I like the backstory of George and everything involved but there were points where it all felt too much. The enthusiasm of Michael Wreford won't escape you in this and I do encourge it a lot, I like to see passionate writers but leaving out a few pieces would have reduced some info dumpy parts and make out the story come out more naturally. 

As for the main protagonist of Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai, George Quant, he is one that many readers will like. He isn't a cardboard cut out of your average spy. Though he knows he stuff, making a quick get away or getting out of tight situations, he isn't one without his own flaws and inner demons to battle. Take for example the ongoing romance that he has with Karen not really knowing how he needs to go about this all, this all in a backdrop of never ending danger as he is risking his life every step of the way... as a spy you aren't asked to make sacrifices, they are demanded. I really liked reading about George's character. 

Most espionage books focus on events that stand pretty far away from our time, take James Bond for example, not saying that they are far fetched it is just something that you wont see happen very soon. The idea behind Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is cybercrime and cyberterrorism, introducing this with the mentioning of the date of 9/11 does bring everything to a much closer and realistic situation. Playing into these "fears" of our current life makes the whole threat come out even stronger. I found this a very wise and well thought through decision of laying the focus in this area and besides it is something that I haven't encountered that much before. A big plus. We use the internet daily and it has been out very long but things are often still a big black box of what is actually going on... 

Now the last part that I want to mention here is part of the layout of the book. Michael Wreford has some amazing quotes to itnroduce each of his chapters, they are wise sayings from the Thirty-Six Stratagems from China. You know, I read some books that have great flavor introductions but this definitely topped it all off and better yet when you see the links that Michael Wreford uses to connect the large part of the chapter with it. Nicely done.

Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai  is an action packed spy novel that will get you to the edge of your seat in a manner of minutes. The story is very detailed and here comes into play the knowledge of Michael Wreford, the surrounding feel alive and vibrant and the story is in constant motion. Every action that George undertakes is met with a reaction but not always in a favorable direction. Besides the richly detailed places that are being visited the protagonist is one that will be suited for many more books to come. George has a background and though a lot is already shown in this first book I am sure there is still a lot more that isn't told. Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is a short book with only 250 pages, with an action packed narration the pages fly away and it's over to soon. Recommended.


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