A Shadow Intelligence by Oliver Harris

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I was given a galley copy of A Shadow Intelligence to read.

TLDR: version of my review is that its a thoroughly modern spy thriller.

The protagonist Elliot Kane is a British intelligence officer who has returned from Saudi Arabia to London. He is sent a video of himself in a room that he’s never been talking to a man that he doesn’t know. Harris takes the reader on a spy story that takes place in the Central Asian republics between China and Russia.

It is a thoroughly modern book:

  • Addressing the confluence of interests between government and businesses going abroad that had long driven policy and actions in Africa and the Middle East. But is now driving along the Silk Road with the expansion of China’s Belt & Road Initiative and the quest for oil and mining
  • Privatisation of military, cyber and intelligence capabilities. We know have a private intelligence and military industrial complex. Edward Snowden worked for Booz Allen & Hamilton. Palantir do data analysis for intelligence, as does Detica for the UK. SCL Group ran outsourced psychological warfare programmes for western militaries and supported political interference in the developing world
  • Technology including modern information warfare over social media channels, fake news and deep fake videos. Even pretty crude efforts at the moment drive effective disinformation campaigns, deep fake video and audio completely undermines what the nature of truth is.

Kane comes across as a jaded, human bookish character more George Smiley than James Bond. Harris did his research really well. He brings alive the locations and the main characters.

If I had one criticism it would be that the end felt a bit rushed, rather like the author was trying to exceed a word count. Despite this I am happy recommending A Shadow Intelligence as a good leisure read. More book reviews here.