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The Haze

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A thoroughly enjoyable contemporary spy novel recommended to fans of the well-known "heavy hitter" espionage writers.

This slick and contemporary CIA espionage thriller leads us through the revolution ravaged streets of Cairo - to the heady atmosphere of Pulau island in South East Asia - via the dirty money of Saudi princes, high end yachts and other similarly shadowy characters under the veneer of middle eastern powerplay.  


We quickly learn that our leading man, Professor Hector Kane; is not quite what he seems. Former CIA agent, both noble yet disgraced, he finds himself drawn back into the game by the mysterious Cardinal to head up a new CIA operation under the guise of his new deep cover life as a university Professor. But who can Hector trust? Travelling his mission undercover with a group of his elite university students, we learn that everyone has their own secret agenda to hide.  


His end goal already murky, the lens of Hector’s life is further narrowed when he received a tip off claiming that his wife, the mother of his son – the child they lost, is a Chinese spy; he also learns that his late father, also an eminent Professor, carried a legacy destined to land on his shoulders, to be avenged two decades after his death.  


This is a multi-layered and exciting novel from Burnaby Hawkes, crafted with spectacular detail all with an authentic feel. The inner workings of this contemporary CIA operation are masterfully revealed in a plot that darts from earlier events to real time as we build a picture of Hector’s ultimate task.


There is a fine line in espionage writing where I feel an author can overwrite complexity into the finer details to the detriment of the reader’s enjoyment.  Hawkes here manages to achieve the perfect balance of offering up a satisfyingly challenging read without the need to spoon feed or use clichés to activate the basic thrill and dirty glamour of a classic spy plot.  


A wonderful sense of place is created throughout this novel: for example in the author’s descriptions of the humid polluted tense atmosphere (“the Haze”) of Pulau. My mind’s eye was easily opened as to how the characters looked, spoke and behaved; and any one of the life stories of the main cast could be a spin-off novel in its own right, so rich is the use of every word to craft each character and their backstory.


I found this a reasonably quick and enjoyable read and would certainly recommend it to fans of any of the well-known heavy hitter espionage writers: Forsyth, Le Carre and the like.  It is no surprise with the author’s professional background that this novel feels authentic, which is all too important.  I would be happy to read another novel by Burnaby Hawkes.  A great read.  

Reviewed by

I am a Scottish writer and book lover. My love of words stretches back to childhood, when I used to devour books at night by torchlight. Today, my love of reading and writing is as passionate as ever. I have eclectic tastes - from stories for children to thrillers and espionage.

About the author

Burnaby Hawkes is a Canadian novelist and former researcher for the NATO Council. His fiction has appeared in Heater, The Raven Chronicles, and other magazines. He read English and philosophy at the University of Toronto and holds a master’s degree in global affairs and international security. view profile

Published on May 11, 2020

Published by Athena Book Tavern

100000 words

Genre: Espionage

Reviewed by