The Fourth Courier, by Timothy Jay Smith

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Timothy Jay Smith, and Skyhorse Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review. 

After having been asked to read this book by the author, I could not wait to see just what Timothy Jay Smith had in store for his readers. This thriller, set in 1992 Poland, has all the elements of a Cold War classic without the Iron Curtain. However, remnants of the Soviet-era dominance remain, both in the story’s setting and its narrative delivery. The story focuses on a group of recently slain individuals who appear to have been smuggling nuclear material from the former USSR out of the country to help build weapons. While this would seem to be a local matter, FBI Agent Jay Porter arrives when the fourth victim is discovered, killed in much the same matter as the others. These victims or ‘couriers’ seem to have been contracted to help smuggle items out and deliver them to a physicist. Unfortunately, the scientist has also disappeared, making it all the more important to locate him and learn of the intended destination of the nuclear material. General Drako Mladic of the Yugoslav Secret Police soon hits Porter’s radar. Mladic is sadistic and ready to kill anyone who stands in his way, as well as residing in one of Europe’s most unstable regions. Porter will have to work alongside the most unlikely of partners to end the courier route and stop what could be a new international disaster. In a story that mixes thrills, espionage, and the darkest of characters, Smith offers the reader a glimpse into something terrifying, had it actually come to pass. Well-written and captivating, anyone with an interest in Cold War spy thrillers will likely want to add this to their reading list. 

I will be the first to admit that I had troubles connecting to the book at times. While Smith is a great writer and keeps the reader enthralled, I found myself weaving in and out of complete comprehension, though the gist did come to me and by the end. FBI Agent Jay Porter proves to be an interesting addition to the story, offering some interesting ‘American flavour’ to the newly freed Polish setting. His attention to detail as he struggles to get his feet under him proves to be highly entertaining to the attentive reader, not to mention the odd pairing he has when investigating. This is a case that challenges traditional police work and being in a foreign country only adds further hurdles. But, Porter pushes onwards and uses some odd connections to help reveal clues to point him in the right direction, even if it will take a miracle to close this case swiftly. Other characters help to shape an already interesting plot, adding conflicting personalities to a dark tale, which can muddy the waters unless the reader is able to focus their attention throughout. A decent premise keeps the story moving forward and the intrigue high. I was never a Cold War thriller reader, but I can see the allure, as there are so many layers to comprehend and many pieces to fit together. Smith does this well and keeps the reader wondering what is to come, as well as seeking to keep an eye peeled for anyone lurking in the shadows. I’ll surely keep an eye open for more by the author and may return to try this book again down the road to see if it leaves more of an impact.

Kudos, Mr. Smith, for a well-paced piece that kept my attention throughout. I hope many discover some of the nuances I missed this time around.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:…