The Stranger by Simon Conway
Who is Jude Lyon?
Jude Lyon is an officer of the Secret Intelligence Service, more commonly known as MI6, a graduate of an ancient university and a veteran of Britain’s most recent Afghan war. He counts himself lucky to be born in a country where citizens, for the most part, enjoy the benefits of legitimate government and the rule of law. And he chooses to believe that with rights go responsibilities. That means that he feels he has duty to be engaged in the world, to know what is going on in its lawless and ungoverned spaces. With that goes recognising that there are people and ideas that threaten our way of life. And from there, the biggest leap, the belief that it is necessary to take up arms and do something about it. And if required, to die trying.
Jude’s curriculum vitae may be a whistle-stop tour of the establishment and he is privy to secrets that are denied to ordinary civilians but there is nevertheless something solitary and non-conformist about him. With a cigar-chomping bank robber for a grandfather and a General given to dark moods for a father, with one sister who is a trenchant journalist and another who is an undercover police officer, Jude is torn between his desire for service to a country he loves and an increasing distrust of those in authority. There is a stubborn part of him that believes in things as they should be and not as they are.
The last thing that Jude wants to be reminded of is his role in the CIA rendition of a terrorist suspect known as the Engineer and his heavily pregnant wife to Damascus, back when our politicians thought we could do business with the Syrian regime. But ten years have passed, the Arab Spring has foundered, Syria has been bombed back into the Dark Ages, and a criminal gang affiliated to Islamic State has broken the Engineer out of an underground interrogation centre. Jude is pulled off a dangerously agreeable mission that involves seducing a Russian diplomat’s wife and tasked by Samantha Burns, the head of MI6, with finding and disposing of the Engineer.
Jude embarks on a perilous and violent journey that leads him from a lawless refugee camp in Jordan to the anarchic badlands of Syria, from Europe’s migrant trail to the heart of power in Whitehall, hunting for a mysterious and deadly killer. A journey that will reveal gross duplicity and an intolerable cover-up, that will force Jude to question his loyalty to his employer and the institutions of the British state.
The Stranger is a warning of what can happen if we let expediency and short-term political advantage overtake our moral purpose. The urge to cover up mistakes in order to save careers or spare political embarrassment can easily rebound with devastating results. It’s a story about blow-back and the rise of a criminal genius who is intent on committing an unspeakable terrorist attack.