Will Cochrane kills and cooks

Wednesday, 18 September, 2013

“Will waited. The sailor looked around, but not back at Will. Beside the man was the Lubyanka building. It was the current headquarters of the Border Guard Service, and it also contained one directorate of the FSB. But during the era of the Soviet Union it had been a notorious prison for political dissidents and spies.”

Sentinel That’s a snippet from Sentinel by Matthew Dunn and the “Will” there is the novel’s protagonist, Will Cochrane of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or MI6. In these days of ascendant Putanism, the West needs heroes to take the fight into the heart of darkness and if that means going mano-a-mano with the enemy on Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya in the middle of Moscow, our spycatcher is up for it:

“Will sprang to his feet and jumped onto the hood of the second Range Rover, ignoring the target, who was still in the vehicle. He ran over its roof, jumped onto the Audi, and dived right over it towards the FSB man, who was now in the rear of the car and had leveled his gun at Roger. Crashing midair into the man, Will wrapped his arms around the Russian’s upper body and limbs, pinning his arms tight against his sides before they hit the ground. He kept squeezing him tight.”

Unlike James Bond, who spends a lot of time squeezing tight members of the opposite sex, Will Cochrane is a rather monkish secret agent. Instead of flirting, he longs for love and that Bondsian double entendre with Pussy Galore is definitely not his cup of tea. Whereas 007 despises domestic duties, our Will is ever so useful in the kitchen:

“Expertly, he peeled and diced shallots and tossed them into the pan with olive oil and butter. Then he deboned and portioned the chicken, pan-fried it with crushed garlic, pepper, and finely chopped herbs, splashed red wine into the pan, and allowed the alcohol to burn off before tasting the liquid and adding some salt and sugar.”

This is far superior to the bacon and scrambled eggs that Bond manages to cook. Still, 007 fans will know that he did eat a doner kebab in From Russia with Love. With Will Cochrane, Matthew Dunn has created a spy with potential, but he needs to make him less nerdy and more witty if he’s going to win over a greater public. The eight-page glossary at the end of Sentinel is useful for those who need to know that the AEK-919K Kashtan submachine gun fires 9mm rounds, but it does reflect the weight of terminology that the reader has to cope with.

Then there’s the confusion of prime minister and president, which could be a consequence of Putinism as the Russian leader has held both offices. But more about that here next week.

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