The Reluctant Hero (Harry Jones #3), by Michael Dobbs

Three stars (of five)

In the third Harry Jones adventure, Dobbs moves away from the political and into the courageous side of the protagonist’s abilities. When Jones learns an acquaintance is being held in an underground prison, he knows that he must act. For this acquaintance, Zac Kravitz, was once a close friend and saved the life of the first Mrs. Jones. Jones posits how how he will get deep in the heart of Ta’argistan, a former Soviet republic in order to extricate Kravitz from certain death. As a maverick MP and former military man, Jones uses some of his connections to weasel his way onto a parliamentary trip to the region, keen on breaking Kravitz out on the sly, no matter the cost. Upon arrival in Ta’agistan, Jones and fellow MP Martha Riley hatch a plot to work with local dissidents to aid in Kravitz’s release, while trying not to tip their hands to the local authorities. Their plethora of questions make Jones and Riley highly suspicious to Ta’argic officials. In the escape attempt, Jones ends up replacing himself with Kravitz in the prison cell, as Riley rushes the dilapidated prisoner onto a flight bound for the UK. Jones faces the most depraved people he’s ever encountered, in a place where human rights are unheard of, with little chance he’ll ever see the light of day. Jones must find a way out and back to the United Kingdom, before he is used as the veritable replacement for Kravitz and his crimes. It is only upon great reflection and a slip of the tongue that Jones realises that Kravitz’s incarceration is only the tip of the iceberg, and that his own Government may have a vested interest in the region. An interesting adventure for the formerly political-savvy Harry Jones, sure to interest fans of the series.

Dobbs does a decent job, again, in telling his story and putting forth some interesting points of view. He is, however, guilty of a somewhat superficial approach, especially using Jones and Riley to enact the caper. I recently saw someone compare Jones to Fleming’s Bond, which could not be further from the truth. Jones has little suave nature and the women are less drawn to him because of his power than happenstance. True, Jones does seem to have a way with the ladies, but is far from the swooning hero one might expect to see. The idea is well presented and parts of the story are just as keenly executed, but it seems the frozen tundra of the setting seeps into the writing style at points throughout.

Kudos, Baron Dobbs for your work, a decent attempt all around. Not as gripping or stellar as I would have hoped, but innovative nonetheless.