China, the eve of the September 11 attacks. A powerful cyber weapon is about to be released. Only one man can stop it …
Journalist and SIS (MI6) contract agent George Quant arrives on the run in Beijing. Estranged from Karen, his Moscow-based handler, George is thrust into Asia’s clandestine underworld of gentleman spies, nefarious business people, and murderous Party members. With his past catching up with him, George discovers that not everyone in China can be trusted.
At the centre of George Quant’s dilemma lie two men: investor-adventurer Pierce de Havilland, and Karen’s trusted contact known only as “Ho”. Both successful in their own right, the rivals offer diverging perspectives on China’s future. As their intentions grow clearer, George recognises that an important choice looms—adopting the life of a millionaire fugitive, or accepting the call of a higher moral imperative.
From his initial assignment in Cambodia in the late ‘90s—between the drinks, drugs and dangerous card games—George’s high octane adventures spill across London, Moscow, and Beijing, before culminating in Hong Kong. Alarmed by Karen’s increasing demands and damaged by her unrequited love, he begins to search for a way to disentangle himself from an expanding web of deception.
Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is an action packed, fast paced story with several twists and a lot of adventure. The characters are complicated and have multiple motivations, which are fun to try and figure out.
Told from the first-person perspective of Agent Ai, also known as George Quant, Kill with a Borrowed Knife is about his experiences working as an undercover agent. He gets lured to helping out British Intelligence as a young journalist, partly because he falls in love with a woman. He follows her instructions, and becomes intoxicated with the lifestyle. However, he doesn’t quite fit in, and he falls into some bad habits.
The book covers a short period of time, during which George is a journalist and SIS (M16) contract agent, running away to Beijing from his problems in Moscow. Unfortunately for George, he can’t start a clean slate in China, and he soon finds himself struggling to meet the demands of his two employers, Pierce de Havilland and Ho, while staying out of reach of the Russian men who are looking to kill him.
Kill with a Borrowed Knife is a thriller and a page-turner, but it felt like the story could have easily been expanded. It took a few chapters to keep all the characters straight, and to understand who George is and what he is trying to accomplish. There are many flashbacks that show scenes that happened not much earlier, and though it was great fill in the gaps of the backstory, it may have been less confusing if those details came out earlier.
That said, there were many nice details woven throughout the story that made it feel very authentic. Michael Wreford clearly either did a lot of research or knew a lot about the different cultures and countries that are mentioned in the story. I particularly enjoyed the snippets of Russian, French, Chinese, and other languages sprinkled throughout the story. There are also many details about Chinese culture and history in particular, since the story is mainly set in Beijing.
Wreford also skillfully showed George’s love for Karen, and their complicated, twisted relationship. Though it took a while to truly understand George and learn about his character, it’s always clear how much he cares for Karen, and how far he is willing to go for her.
The other interesting aspect of Kill with a Borrowed Knife is its focus on cyberterrorism. The story is set in 2001, around the time of the September 11 attacks. The conflicts and potential problems are very modern, and deal with issues that would not have been a problem not that long ago.
For anyone who enjoys thrillers about spies, Kill with a Borrowed Knife is a fun, quick read, with many complex characters and twists in the plot. George himself has many sides, and changes throughout the story. It’s fun to see him develop and grow as an agent, who eventually learns to stand up for what he wants and what he believes in.