by Mythic and Youri Jigounov
Having not read the previous three Alpha stories in the first two Cinebook volumes (The Exchange and Wolves’ Wages) I approached this rather fearful that I may be quite lost. But it just wasn’t an issue. Like several other Cinebook Euro thrillers Alpha is set up to be a series where the lead character is merely a convenient figure to hang various espionage stories from.
Alpha himself is a classic anti-hero; brutal when necessary, cold, calculating yet with an element of compassion and a rebellious nature that sees him always ready to bend and break the rules, to question his spy-masters.
And I have to say, I rather enjoyed my first experience with Alpha. From a little googling around, I now realise that the series was actually created by Pascal Renard, with scriptwriter “Mythic” taking over following Renard’s death in 1966. Having not read the first two volumes, I have no idea whether Mythic’s work is better or worse than Renards. All I can confidently say is that I’ll be looking out for those first two volumes and any subsequent Alpha stories.
(The list is created, and this Stasi colonel begins a life on the run. From Alpha: The List by Mythic and Jigounov, published by Cinebook.)
The story in the List deals with post Eastern Bloc politics and the political fallout from the unification of Germany in the late 80s. On the eve of democracy, with the Berlin Wall teetering, one East Germany Stasi colonel looks into his future and sees nothing but recriminations, witch-hunts and revenge (the Stasi were the notoriously brutal East German secret police).
He flees with his family, assuming new identities every few years when, inevitably, his face is recognised and their safety compromised. Eventually he’s had enough and contacts the US to broker a deal. In his possession, snatched from his Stasi headquarters, is the List, a damning record of every shady deal, every corrupt business transaction carried out over the years in East Germany. And on that list are an awful lot of very important, very influential US citizens, making the list irresistible to the US, who send Alpha and his team out to bring the Stasi colonel and his family to safety in the US and a new life.
But a list so damning hasn’t gone unnoticed and the world of international espionage soon homes in on the fleeing group, with threats coming from Mossad, the French secret service and most dangerous of all, those in high US office, implicated and damned on the list. These people will stop at nothing to see the list destoyed, and Alpha and his team are utterly expendable.
(Alpha may enter the story guns blazing, but for most of The List, it’s pure spycraft that appeals. From Alpha: The List by Mythic and Jigounov, published by Cinebook.)
It’s really a most enjoyable spy thriller, very much in a technical, thoughtful style rather than an out and out fight fest. More Bond novel than Bond movie you might say. There are moments of high action, and they’re very skilfully done but they’re few and far between. Far more interesting are the long drawn out sequences of the minutiae of espionage techniques and the complex manouvering of modern spycraft. And it’s that very highly crafted aspect of Alpha that I particularly enjoyed, all expertly drawn by Jigounov in a classical European thriller comic style.