cover image The Hungry Blade

The Hungry Blade

Lawrence Dudley. Blackstone, $27.99 (434p) ISBN 978-1-5385-5701-3

Set in 1940, Dudley’s uneven sequel to 2018’s New York Station finds undercover SIS agent Roy Hawkins on a mission to Bermuda. On a ship bound for Mexico, Hawkins discovers crates containing canvases worth millions by major artists, including Braque, van Gogh, and Picasso. The paintings are being smuggled to the West by Germans, having been confiscated as “degenerate art” from Jewish collections in occupied European countries. Hawkins decides to let the precious cargo continue on to Mexico to uncover what the Germans are planning. After a laborious opening, the action picks up in Mexico, where Hawkins meets such real-life notables as exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and the “it” couple of Mexico’s art world, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and gets an intriguing view of Mexican politics. Unfortunately, Dudley often wields his historical expertise clumsily with excessive exposition and an unnecessary level of detail, and he goes too far in giving Hawkins, an earnest, refreshingly unconfident spy, a complex psychological backstory. Still, fans of WWII-era capers may want to check this out. Agent: Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Assoc. (Jan.)