The Coming Darkness by Greg Mosse

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Review by Annabel

The publicist’s pitch of ‘Bladerunner meets John Le Carré’ was totally irresistible. While I’m not sure that the former is particularly applicable to this novel, Le Carré is definitely an influence, and that’s fine by me!

Greg Mosse has a long pedigree in theatre, as a director, playwright and actor. He has also set up various creative writing programmes and is husband to bestselling author Kate, so I had high hopes for his first novel, written during lockdown.

The Coming Darkness is set in the near future, beginning in 2037. The world has been ravaged by a killer virus and global warming is all too real in its consequences wreaked on civilisation.

In this world, a new country, Cyrenia, has recently been created from a fragment of Libya which broke up under civil war taking in the cities of Benghazi and Tobruk with its new capital Cyrene City, governed by the mayors of those cities under their charismatic first Prime Minister, Souad Mourad. She and Cyrenia will play a critical role in the action of this novel due to the location of a particular facility there.

Meanwhile, based in Paris, Alexandre Lamarque works for the French External Security Service, an MI6 equivalent. He’s nearing burnout after a mission to protect an international data centre in Marseille nearly went wrong. He’s worried, he can see darkness coming, but he can’t make any sense out of all the chatter to make patterns any more. He’s ready to leave. His boss has other plans though, she wants to bring him inside – move him to Internal Security where his talents are needed. Alex is resistant, but when his mother gets ill with the virus, the only way she’ll get the treatment she needs is for him to sign up, and then she can go to the service hospital.

So Alex is thrust into a den of vipers. It is becoming clear that he must be extremely careful, he can’t necessarily trust anyone including his secret lover Mariam, nor her boss, his mentor Professor Fayard, and perhaps not even his best friend Amaury Barra, whose hand Alex had accidentally shot off in a mission–Barra had infiltrated an eco-terrorist group Alex was targeting.

He’s in a difficult situation all around, and incidents, attacks, thefts, and a string of child murders keep happening; there must be a pattern somewhere. The scene is set for a complex political, spy thriller in which the stakes are being raised daily, and Alex may be the only man who can literally save the world.

Returning to that publicist’s pitch and the Bladerunner comparison, reading this novel I found a closer match in that Mosse’s Paris felt much more like Wilf Netherton’s London in William Gibson’s The Peripheral, (currently streaming on Prime); it’s the same but different, less populated, more high tech. This provided the ideal setting for the labyrinthine plot, which has layers in layers, although I was quite pleased with myself for unravelling a few of the key twists, but only just before they were revealed in the text.

The writing is intense and has a slow-burn quality that belies all the action going on – that Le Carré influence showing, however, this thriller is more geopolitical. Alex is undoubtedly a superhero, there is a hint of Daniel Craig-era Bond about him, he’s finely honed physically, but he’s French and more of a thinker than Fleming’s secret agent, and he loves his mum.

As thrillers go, this ambitious novel wasn’t a fast read, that previously mentioned intensity ensures the reader takes time to digest what is happening – until the final act, where the race against time becomes super critical and there is a real fear that Alex won’t make it – then it became a page-turner! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Alex Lamarque on these pages, and would love to see his return…

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Annabel is a co-founder and one of Shiny’s editors.

Greg Mosse, The Coming Darkness (Moonflower, 2022) ISBN 9781919618753, hardback, 352pp..

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