Spybrarian John Koenig has an impressive Spybrary and reads several books a week. He has a keen eye for an enthralling spy thriller and he has kindly sent us his thoughts on The Fourth Protocol.
This is the Koenig Memo.
Reading The Fourth Protocol in 2018 (it was published in 1984) is a captivating experience. Sure, I know Forsyth is one of the grand masters of the spy and espionage fiction genre. Who doesn’t know The Day of the Jackal? The Odessa File?. Forsyth has a personal background in the spy game; he was a spy himself. He’s still writing (The Fox is scheduled for 9-18-18 publication). But damn, Fourth Protocol is a mesmerizing story and a great book, exceeding my hopes.
In the book, the Russians are the bad guys, natch. Maggie Thatcher is Prime Minister of England, to give you the time-frame. A major jewelry heist leads to personal-sized nukes potentially heading to Great Britain. How can this be, how does it tie together, you ask?
Forsyth displays his mastery for pacing, building tension, and advancing a complex plot with many moving parts (and long Russian names), throughout the 387 pages of this fine book. Even more impressively, the world of spyycraft came alive for me. I’ve read a great deal of spy and espionage, both fiction and non-fiction, but detail for detail, Forsyth is as good as anyone with The Fourth Protocol.
Keep in mind, this takes place pre-internet, smart phones only existed in Dick Tracy, before CCTV cameras are on every light pole and building. People, complete with all their emotional variables, and good old-fashioned tradecraft, drive the engaging story lines.
The Fourth Protocol is alive with people and positions and ranks and ambitions and details. It’s to Forsyth’s credit I was able to keep everyone straight, with a minimum of leafing backwards for reminders. Early in the book John Preston of MI5 is merely another of the players, but time and events bring him to the forefront. I enjoyed getting to know him, and sharing his tension and thought processes.
The Fourth Protocol is a complete spy and espionage novel, probably a classic, and a worthwhile read, any decade.