Welcome to the blog tour for action-packed, spy thriller The Moscow Whisper by Michael Jenkins! Read on for an excerpt and a guest post by the author!
The Moscow Whisper
Publication Date: June 12th, 2020
Genre: Thriller/ Espionage/ Action/ Spy Thriller
Publisher: Failsafe Thrillers
Length: 407 Pages
‘Sometimes you have to enter the death zone to save the innocent ’
A top-secret clique of former spies meet for dinner to hatch a plan to murder a competitor, not knowing that they are under surveillance from a covert arm of British Intelligence. Hours later, with bodies strewn across a terrace, a piece of secret intelligence reveals an international plot of colossal magnitude.
For disgraced agent Sean Richardson, this is the beginning of a deniable mission to infiltrate and disrupt a group of Russian mercenaries who are working clandestinely to take over a nation state.
Acting covertly as an illicit arms trafficker, Sean is dropped into a deadly cauldron of terrorists and high-tech weaponry that will take a nation down. As the bullets fly and the chaos rains in, can Sean take down the merchants of death…..or has he finally met his match?
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One of my favourite extracts from the novel where Sean has to act with guile and stealth to hack into his targets home computer. A nervous espisode, as capture would mean death from the brutal Russian mercenary.
At exactly eight o’clock in the evening, Dozich’s internal CCTV system was infiltrated by The Court’s hackers sitting at their dimly lit consoles somewhere in the quiet Suffolk countryside. Sean’s phone began to vibrate – sure enough, right on time. Jack messaged him on TextSecure and the phone came alive with a green screen showing three dots flickering. ‘Good to go. All stations on standby.’
The Court’s hackers had inserted a Trojan worm deep into the servers of the villa, which quickly propagated laterally to gain the privileged access rights to the CCTV system. The hackers took control of each of the internal cameras that would provide sight of Sean making his way to the rooms he would search.
‘I’ll be back in an hour,’ he said to Yelena. ‘If anyone comes and asks where I am, text me, and tell them I’m on the loo.’
‘I can come along and keep an eye out for you while you’re in the room you know. It’s my father’s house and if anything goes wrong, I’ll be able to tell a story far better than you at being caught mooching around like a jewel thief.’
‘Funny that, Jack set my legend up to show I was once an amateur thief.’
Had Sean seen the anxious look on Jack’s face back at The Court, he may have taken her up on the offer to tag along. But no. he needed to do this work alone. He stepped outside the door knowing the corridor cameras were now under the control of The Court hackers who had digitally manipulated the imagery being seen by Dozich’s security operators deep in the basement of the villa. He then sent a text to Jugsy: ‘Land the drone on Dozich’s balcony. Five minutes.’
Within three minutes, Sean had turned a key to enter the spacious office which was located on the first floor of the villa. He’d memorised the plans of the villa and the layout of Dozich’s office with the help of Yelena who had managed to coax the information from the housekeeper as well as the location of the spare key that her father always left in the vase opposite the door.
As Sean started to rummage the room, he still couldn’t work out why Yelena had been so accommodating, so helpful. Almost from the very beginning when he first caught her half naked in that room in Tuscany. Since that moment, it had not been at all difficult to extract information from her. Indeed, she even steered him straight to the Albanian thug. Why, he wondered?
His phone began to ring. The signal that the drone was now inbound and imminent. Sean walked over to the terrace, released the latch on the sliding door, and stepped out to be confronted by a buzzing quadcopter two feet ahead of him at head height. He imagined Jugsy grinning at him through the onboard camera, so he decided to give him the finger. Following a smile at the ugly whirring beast, he grabbed a small black pouch from a cradle below the drone’s belly. He gave a thumbs up into the eye of the onboard camera, and watched it lift quickly before silently peeling off into the night to land on the roof of the villa.
Sean pointed his penlight towards the large white desk that sat neatly in the corner of the room with two twenty-inch screens and a desktop computer. He gazed briefly at the three large pictures behind Dozich’s desk. His gaze turned into serious study. Something had caught his eye. One picture had three men dressed in Spetsnaz fatigues and Dozich holding an AK47. It looked like it was taken in Afghanistan. Dozich was stood next to a man Sean recognised. It was a much younger Sergei. The Russian spy Jack had recruited and the man he had met only a year ago in the very conference room that Jack was now sat in. Sean’s nape began to tingle. What if Sergei had played Jack all along? Surely this is too much of a coincidence for Sergei, the lead officer for a Russian illegals programme in the UK, to be a military friend of Dozich?
Sean took a photo of the wall mounted picture with his smartphone and beamed it back to Jack using the secure photo app specially designed for Court operations. He muttered a few words to himself about moles and how Swartz might have been compromised, before sitting at the desk. The computer screen was alive with a background picture of a mountain view. He tapped the return button to bring up the password box. He then stood up and walked around the room once more until he finally found what he was after. A small second desktop machine with a laptop beside it on a small table next to an open fireplace. Sean instinctively knew that Dozich would probably use the laptop for emails and internet transmissions, whilst he kept his main desktop machine isolated from any intruders who would hack into his machine via the internet. Operational security for organised crime lords in the digital world was a must, and one that Dozich would take seriously.
Sean tapped the number into his phone that he’d been given by Jack to speak to a Court operator in the operations room back in Suffolk. The hacker would help him get into the machine to search and retrieve all of the files of Dozich’s illicit trade, his financial connections and any connecting evidence to Sir Rhys.
‘Sean? Can you hear me? My name’s Bill?’
‘Yes, I can, I’m in front of the machine, go ahead.’
‘OK, this won’t take long. First off, there are two pensticks in the black pouch. Both will be required to perform this attack which should take less than five minutes. The blue stick will be used to create a live USB that will boot on the laptop while, the yellow stick holds the payload that will then be executed on the device. It will infiltrate the machine and search for the password hash. Place the blue one in now.’
Sean drew the blue pen drive from his jeans pocket and placed it into the USB drive. ‘Done,’ he said waiting impatiently for the next instruction.
‘OK, now on the pen drive is a small switch. Turn it on so a green light flashes once before going solid after five seconds.’
‘Done, what’s next.’
‘Just sit back for about three minutes or so. It’ll boot on the laptop and also sniff for the drone sat above you on the roof, and once it’s connected, we’ll have a transmission frequency to extract the data we need.’
Available on Amazon
The Moscow Whisper – Spies, Mercenaries, Weapons smuggling, and Forensics – a unique mixture of espionage.
For those that have read the book, I hope you enjoyed the mixture of geo-politics, mysterious locations, and the fascinating mission that Sean, the main character, has to achieve set against tumultuous odds. A task he felt was impossible from the outset.
I thought for many months about how I might fuse some of the modern-day geo-forensics, bomb disposal, weapons smuggling, and Russian mercenaries into such a story. I wanted to immerse the reader with a rich insight into the modern-day world of intelligence operations, from strategic level and national assets, right down to simple and applied forensics on the ground, with a smattering of bomb disposal and weapons smuggling scenes too. Of course, most spy and espionage novels don’t have such a unique mixture, so what led me to explore these themes?
For many of my years, I was privileged to serve on operations with some incredible forensic and bomb disposal experts, both during my days on counter terrorist operations with the police, and also on overseas operations acting with the intelligence services and the military. Hence nearly all of the search, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal), weapons and forensic scenes are authentic, but have of course been adapted to the theme of the story where Sean comes up against a set of highly trained Russian mercenaries, a long way from home on another continent.
I really enjoyed showing some of the capabilities of modern-day cyber operations – highly trained operators using cutting edge technology to conduct intelligence gathering roles in support of covert missions. It’s no secret that many of these techniques are employed by many nations, and there have been lost of media coverage and articles about the power of cyber operations, hacking, and stealing secrets that are embedded in servers, networks and IT systems. Cyber espionage is very much alive.
But how does Sean use all these techniques and procedures to achieve the mission that Jack, his MI5 handler gave him? One of the main themes here is that he needs trusted friends and experts to achieve the mission, something he could never do alone. And so he brings in his team of eclectic, erratic, and eccentric operators together. I loved creating their oddities in the first novel, The Failsafe Query, and then bring them together again for their second high-octane mission in the Kompromat Kill, before completing the trilogy with The Moscow Whisper. Each of them can be read as standalone novels, and each are based on people I served with, and I blended in multiple characters to make them who they are today in the story. I always chuckle when I meet up with some of them for a drink and I’ve included most of their own personal traits into each character. The characters feel real because of it.
It was important to me that Sean did not become the tired ‘lone wolf’ superspy that you usually find in spy thrillers, but I wanted him to use his charisma and flair to lead a team of highly skilled geo-forensics and bomb disposal operators. Sean is a highly skilled professional, who pulls off his missions by selecting and leading the right team of people for the job. He is flawed, he makes mistakes, pays his dues, and has to find ways to live with the extensive trauma his profession has caused him.
The activities of Sean hunting down the merchants of death, are based upon my experiences of working in the world of Intelliegnce, weapons intelligence, bomb disposal and high-risk search for counter terrorist operations. But I adapted the principles to make a story out of it, and used the skills of what is known as Search Advisors to create the conditions for him to succeed. Police and military search advisors are those officers who conduct investigations into missing persons and finding criminal items – and they are superbly trained and lead the world in this type of activity.
It was great fun to blend in the military and geo-forensic aspects of the operation into the novel, and I hope you enjoy those scenesa mongst exotic landscapes. What exactly does it all reveal though……the twists and turns will eventually lead you to a very dramatic finale. Sean’s route to success and contentment is blocked by many disturbing and hidden facets that he didn’t know were in play. It seems an almost impossible mission. And just as you thought it couldn’t be any worse, along comes a standoff that needs Sean to somehow find a way out of.
Just as all seems lost, Sean senses an opportunity and gets some help he didn’t expect…….
About the Author
I started climbing at 13, survived being lost in Snowdonia at 14, nearly drowned at 15, and then joined the Army at 16. Risk and adventure was built into my DNA and I feel very fortunate to have served the majority of my working career as an intelligence officer within Defence Intelligence, and as an explosive ordnance disposal officer and military surveyor within the Corps of Royal Engineers.
I feel privileged to have served for twenty-eight years in the British Army as a soldier and officer, working in Defence Intelligence and Counter-Terrorist Bomb Disposal operations, rising through the ranks to complete my service as a major. I served across the globe on numerous military operations as well as extensive travel and adventure on many major mountaineering and exploration expeditions that I led or was involved in.
I was awarded the Geographic Medal by the Royal Geographical Society for mountain exploration and served on the screening committee of the Mount Everest Foundation charity for many years. It was humbling after so many years of service when I was awarded the MBE for services to counter-terrorism in 2007
Blog Tour Schedule
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Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/
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@liliyanashadowlyn (Feature) https://www.instagram.com/liliyanashadowlyn/
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@brendajeancombs (Feature) https://www.instagram.com/brendajeancombs/
Rambling Mads (Spotlight & Review Out of Tour) http://ramblingmads.com
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@the.b00keater (Review) https://www.instagram.com/the.b00kreader
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Crossroads Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.crossroadreviews.com
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