cover image All Fall Down

All Fall Down

James Brabazon. Berkley, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-440-00151-5

After botching what was supposed to be a simple assassination assignment outside Belfast, British operative Max McLean finds himself framed for murder, cut off by his handlers, and forced to go on the run, in Brabazon’s uneven sequel to 2019’s The Break Line. All McLean has to try to get out of his fix is a $100 bill he managed to pry from the dead fingers of the former IRA terrorist he was supposed to kill before someone beat him to it. The word Arkhangel written on the bill convinces McLean that the key to the case lies in the Russian seaport bearing its name—and where McLean spent his early years. After dodging attempts on his life in Paris and Tel Aviv, McLean sneaks his way into the motherland. Well before then, however, this spy thriller has begun to unravel. Improbable characters, principally a whimsical nerd McLean meets in the Paris catacombs, and a belief-straining plot twist involving McLean’s teenage girlfriend, doom the story’s second half. Brabazon writes great action scenes, but he’s not going to move up the ranks with this one. Agent: Karolina Sutton, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Feb.)