Sleeper spy Will Starling has been drafted in to the SOE, joining forces with the French Resistance in the fight against the Nazis; but Will’s memory is fractured and only occasional flashbacks reveal fragments of his past. Despite this, he has not forgotten his pledge to find and rescue his sister, Rose – if she is still alive. When his mission in France is compromised, Will suspects he’s been betrayed.
Back in London he hears that VIPER are in league with the Axis powers and are developing a new and deadly weapon. As he and MI5 agent Anna Wilder set out to destroy it, their every move is anticipated by their enemies. Who is the mole in the British Secret Service? As they close in on VIPER’s Swiss headquarters, it seems no one can be trusted. Are Will and Anna able to prevent the unleashing of the Red Storm that will bring mass destruction on a scale even the Nazis haven’t dreamt of?
While Will tries to save the world, Rose has become the key to VIPER’s future plans and is drugged to dull her kinetic powers. But Rose faces danger from an unexpected enemy and her time is running out.
A Sniff of Betrayal
Chartres, France, 14th July 1943, the following evening,
Will Starling lies on his belly, concealed under bushes and weighed down by a backpack crammed with twenty-five pounds of Nobel 808 explosive. It is a warm summer evening, his clammy face mists up the lenses of his contact, Canadian, 6×30 binoculars. He blows on them before wiping the glass with the cuff of his shirt. Adjusting the focus, he watches the blurred shades of green and grey form into lush green meadows and the sturdy steels legs of a towering pylon, an immense obelisk transmitting power from Paris through to Chartres and beyond – power the Nazis were using to their advantage. Will takes stock of the tower, sweeping the binoculars up the ugly lattice structure. It would take a lot of explosive to bring it down.
‘Is it clear?’ asks Emile.
Will nods. ‘It’s clear.’
‘We should hurry, no?’ whispers Claudette.
‘Not just yet,’ says Will. His eyes follow the sun as it sinks and disappears behind a distant forest. The sky is brushed with an amber glow and provides enough light for them to carry out the operation without attracting unwanted attention with torches.
Emile and Claudette huddle on either side of them. Despite being the leader of this mission, he can’t help feeling like a spare wheel. His companions are newlyweds. Emile is athletic and handsome in a typical Gallic way and Claudette is pretty with dark hair and a wicked sense of humour that has Will laughing out loud sometimes. They are hopelessly in love, living each day as if it were their last. It is the perfect disguise for being amongst the occupying German forces, who find them innocuous and therefore ignore them.
Behind the smiles and sunny expressions, however, Emile and Claudette detest the Nazis, their feelings buried deep, emerging in the hidden meeting rooms of back-street bars and cafes where Will and other members of the Special
Operations Executive and French Resistance meet to discuss the latest orders from London.
‘Before we go, I have something to ask you, mon cher,’ says Claudette.
Will hands the binoculars to Emile.
‘Oui, ma cherie?’ says Emile, scouring the landscape.
Claudette snorts. ‘I was talking to Will.’
Like Will, Claudette has just turned eighteen. She has become like a sister to him and, despite remembering almost nothing about his real sister, he has, on occasion, had to stop himself from calling Claudette by Rose’s name. He knows he should have kept his distance, but Claudette’s personality, her humour and passion are just too seductive.
He often thinks about Rose and wonders if she is like Claudette. In his dreams she appears in snapshots. She seems innocent, fragile, but also stubborn – nothing unusual in any of those traits. However, Rose was not like other girls. Will had acquired secret research papers authored by his father, which revealed a little more about his past. His father had worked for Teleken – a VIPER-funded, scientific organisation that had developed a wonder drug, which allegedly gave the user kinetic powers. Will’s father had championed it and his mother had agreed to be one of the guinea pigs. However, the drug had been a failure. None of the guinea pigs had developed anything other than the need to vomit for three hours after taking it. All except Will’s mother, that is. She had vomited the morning before taking the drug, unaware that she was pregnant with Rose.
Neither Will’s father nor his mother could have anticipated what fate had in store for them. The drug had fed the foetus and seemingly modified Rose’s genetic make-up. Will’s father had no explanation as to how this could have happened. A miracle of modern science, he had concluded.
In the paper, Will’s father described how, at the age of five, Rose had lost her temper and her scream had caused all the windows in the house to shatter. Reading this had stirred an uncomfortable and frightening memory for Will. He remembered his parents being confused, scared even, and recalled a terrified Rose sobbing and apologising for something she knew she had caused but had not been able to control.
In another episode they had been in a local park on a sunny afternoon. Their mother had been unpacking a picnic and an eight-year-old Rose watched on as Will and his father tried out a new cricket bat. His father had bowled a googly, catching Will off-guard. Will had whacked the ball with fervour and accidentally sent it spinning towards his mother. As he panicked and cried out, the ball suddenly stopped in mid-air and spun slowly before flying obediently into a smiling Rose’s waiting hands. To his parents’ horror, other people had witnessed this event. This had been the beginning of the end. Soon after that, the agents of VIPER had come for Rose and the family.
Sleeper: The Red Storm is the second instalment in the series following sleeper agent Will Starling as he attempts to fight against the Nazis in World War II. The first book in the series is an explosive, action packed story and I was so excited to find out what was in store next for Will and his friends. If it’s possible The Red Storm is even more of an intense wild ride, and I loved every second of this thrilling story.
The story picks up several years after the events in the first book. Will has grown but he’s still searching for his sister. The plot hits the ground running and doesn’t let up the entire time. There’s twists and turns and plenty of exciting moments. I really enjoying getting to see the characters I’ve become familiar with, especially seeing Will continue to grow and learn new skills. Along with the old faces there were a few new characters which added another dynamic to the plot. The characters, like the plot are well developed and expertly created. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next for them.
In this series J. D. Fennell has created a really fantastic setting. Europe during the Second World War really comes alive and you can easily become completely absorbed in the explosions, fighting and espionage. I certainly found myself saying ‘oh just one more chapter’ more than a few times in my desperation to know what was going to happen. It’s intense, action packed and unputdownable. The Red Storm certainly lives up to the first book in the series and ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, making me desperate to know what’s coming next in this well crafted series.