Lady S Volume 2 – it’s Van Hamme but not as we know him…..
by Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Aymond
Susan Fitzroy is Lady S, Jean Van Hamme’s reluctant female spy working the highest diplomatic circles, blackmailed into working for an international, off the radar, anti-terrorist group.
This time round Lady S is in Sweden, following her adopted father’s posting as US ambassador. A winter of Nobel Prize dinners and intense cold at 59°N isn’t something she’s looking forward to all that much, but given that this is a Van Hamme thriller it shouldn’t be too surprising to find out that the peaceful Swedish winter isn’t going to last.
And it doesn’t take too many pages before the mysterious “Orion”, her official handler, contacts her for her latest job; infiltrating a suspected plot to kidnap the Nobel Prize winners. It’s meant to be a simple job, in, out, quick and clean. Except it was never going to be that easy – where’s the thriller in that?
And it all quickly goes wrong for Susan, who swiftly finds the plot goes a lot deeper than they first thought and finding that her past and her heart are things she can no longer really trust.
(Lady S starts falling for a mysterious Russian at the top of the page and gets her latest mission at the bottom. You don’t think….. there’s not going to be a very telegraphed betrayal from one of these men later on? That would just seem lazy.)
Now this one is tricky. I rather enjoyed Volume 1 (review) but I think here’s where the enjoyment stops. And that’s a real disappointment for me since I think Van Hamme’s the writer of some of the world’s best thrillers and my love of all things Largo Winch almost knows no bounds. But in this volume of Lady S he’s sadly written something that’s merely a shadow of what he’s done before. Now perhaps I’m completely wrong, perhaps my love for his Largo Winch writing has blinkered my viewpoint? But I have to call it as I see it…..
There are bits of it I liked, and the concept of Lady S is quite intriguing, although fundamentally unsound (amateur spy starts working for a top secret organisation that goes where the professionals can’t?). And it’s Van Hamme, so some of the ideas and dialogue are nicely constructed as well. But overall, it just fails at the thriller it wants to be. It’s going for a laid back, slightly more cerebral thriller vibe, but I just found it too lazy, everything fits together in an overly simplistic, overly calculated way – it feels like thriller by the numbers at times. And then there’s the way the plot unfolds very early on, so much so that the ending and the inevitable attempted plot twist is sloppy and telegraphed almost from the off.
The book’s saving grace is Philippe Aymond, an artist whose work almost makes me think it’s Steve Dillon working under an alias. But like Dillon, the art by Aymond is tight, controlled, cultured and rather lovely.
It’s a shame about Lady S, since the concept plus Van Hamme should have meant thriller gold. But sadly, just on this one, the great man’s writing isn’t up to the idea. Oh well, cross this one off the list and look forward (with great interest) to Van Hamme’s next Cinebook series, finally getting it’s UK publication – hopefully XIII (illustrated by Vance) will be everything Lady S doesn’t quite manage.