Review: The Clown Service

the-clown-service-jacket-mewBy Guy Adams

Del Rey , out now

Section 37’s remit is to deal with less, shall we say, normal attacks on the United Kingdom. If the spy world is ‘the Circus’, then send in the clowns…

Somehow I missed Guy Adams’ great blend of espionage and paranormal goings on when it came out in hardback, but devoured it when the paperback arrived – if you can imagine what an episode of The Avengers would be like written by John le Carré then you get something of the flavour of this book. The threats are treated seriously and there’s no bowler-hatted superslick agent to save England: it’s down to Toby Greene, and some apparently superannuated relics.

There are some deliberate nods to the spy thrillers of the 1960s – not just blatant references to le Carré’s Circus stories, but the flavour of the Bond films (the opening passage feels like a piece of From Russia With Love) and their ilk. The whole book has a cinematic approach: there are some terrific set-pieces, and Adams describes things as economically as possible to ensure you have all the information you need (unlike his protagonists half the time!).

The introduction of some first-person narrative partway through is a little bit of a speedbump particularly as we’ve had sections from this character’s point of view, so I do wonder why those weren’t written up that way for a continuity throughout; after all, many authors do combine the two successfully. That’s a minor stylistic quirk, as is the Appendix of information which could as easily have been threaded through the book – unless we’re meant to assume that things are different as a result of Toby’s final actions, which doesn’t really make sense in context.

Adams leaves a number of threads hanging, and I will not waiting for the paperback of the second briefing by the members of The Clown Service!

Verdict: One for spy thriller fans with a taste for the outré, and those who love urban fantasy with a rooted edge. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order The Clown Service from


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