The inner workings of Israeli intelligence, mischief from Wikileaks, the Iranian nuclear threat, a shady drug underworld and a glamorous femme fatale — it’s a recipe for a riveting spy thriller. And, to a point, that’s what Jake Simons’s Pure (Polygon, £12.99) is. It’s entertaining, well-written and delivers an array of plot twists.
Following Uzi, a maverick former Mossad agent, as he traverses the mean streets of London, getting himself into trouble with seductive Hasmonean girls and mysterious Americans, there’s plenty of juicy detail about Israel’s security reach. Simons has done his research and it shows.
But the characters — action hardmen who rarely suffer consequences, are able to anticipate every move, and have time for wining and dining — are barely plausible. This jars, given that they are supposed to inhabit London in 2012. They are cartoons within a genuine international news cycle, and Uzi’s political posturing comes at the expense of a coherent adventure story.
Our protagonist is an angry, disillusioned individual and Simons uses him as a conduit through which to attack the Israeli system and its government. When Uzi laments the status quo — “Diaspora Jews might talk about Israel a lot, but they can’t understand what its like to live there” — it feels forced. A wildly incredible plot, especially at the ludicrous finale, is just about palatable but making the character an ideologue is a step too far into unreality.
I’d read a serious political novel by Jake Simons; I’d happily try another of his spy stories. But just not at the same time.