The Failsafe Query is a gripping thriller set in the contemporary world of modern British espionage.
Sean Richardson, a disgraced former intelligence agent, is tasked to lead a team to search for Alfie Chapman, an Intelligence officer on the cusp of exposing thousands of secrets to the media. This includes a long lost list of Russian moles embedded since the Cold War, one of whom remains a public favourite in the British parliamentary system.
The action moves with absorbing pace and intrigue across Central Asia and Europe as the puzzle begins to unfold through a deep hidden legacy.
Tense, fast paced, and insightful, The Failsafe Query twists and turns to a satisfyingly dramatic finale.
Praise for the Failsafe Query
'Oh my goodness, what a really excellent book. Absolutely gripping, tense and thrilling. Such intrigue.' – Pigeonhole reviewer.
'A 'best of British' espionage thriller Set amid a modern day spy-world. This riveting book will have you on the edge of your seat taking you on a roller coaster ride of twists and turns.' – Goodreads reviewer.
'A thoroughly captivating book. Action packed with a very clever plot. I was hooked in the blink of an eye. Quite unputdownable!' – Pigeonhole reviewer.
'This is must read. A modern day thriller that I did not want to put down. The plot is fast and well thought through - completely gripping.' – Goodreads reviewer.
'Gathers momentum, and builds towards a terrific climax. Brilliant !' - Goodreads reviewer
Also available in the Failsafe Thriller series:
The Kompromat Kill - The deadly hunt for a Nizari spy ring
About the Author
Michael Jenkins MBE served for twenty-eight years in the British Army, rising through the ranks to complete his service as a major. He served across the globe on numerous military operations as an intelligence officer within Defence Intelligence, and as an explosive ordnance disposal officer and military surveyor within the Corps of Royal Engineers.
His experiences within the services involved extensive travel and adventure whilst on operations, and also on many major mountaineering and exploration expeditions that he led or was involved in. He 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. He was awarded the MBE on leaving the armed forces in 2007 for his services to counter-terrorism.
The Failsafe Query is Michael’s first novel. He has started work on his second spy thriller, The Kompromat Kill, and hopes to publish it early in 2019
Read an Excerpt
Central Asia, 2001
Sean Richardson had a sense of impending fear as he stood in the shadows of a tattered, poverty-stricken housing estate. Sometimes he knew danger was lurking. The unfamiliar environment gave him a strange feeling of isolation as he smoked a cigarette in the dimly lit open courtyard that accessed each block of solid-grey apartments. He noticed the knee-length wooden fences and the sporadic but quite colourful blooms amongst the tufts of sun-seared grass.
The realisation of what he was embarking on dawned on him and the consequences of being caught there gave him a deep, stomach-churning feeling. The fear crept back ...
A mixture of old people, young kids and streetwise teenagers meandered past in the ghostly darkness. Only the pale images of pruned apple trees, curiously marked with white paint at their bases, broke up the dour landscape.
'Dobra vecher,' uttered a fierce-looking, middle-aged man who crouched and squeezed past Sean with the grim look endemic to those trying desperately to survive the hardships of making a living in a city full of poverty.
'Dobra vecher,' Sean replied, observing his movements carefully. The man limped on and turned as he processed Sean's stubbly chin, slightly hesitant Russian and curious Western manner. He looked him up and down in a slightly hunched but muscular fashion and uttered a barrage of strong, guttural Russian, at the same time indicating that Sean should offer him a cigarette. Sean winced at the waft of rancid vodka – a consequence of the man's evening foray with a few other likeminded Russian pals. A gruff retort swirled in the air as Sean offered him the packet, which was eagerly snatched before the man shuffled away up the stairs of a urine-spattered block of flats. Sean watched with curiosity the way of life of these people in a land that was completely unfamiliar to him.
It was late 2001 and he was stranded in the middle of Central Asia, a region of the globe both mysterious and harsh in equal measure, and he told himself on many occasions that it would take him more time to become accustomed to it. But he knew that he was well up to it.
Sean imagined looking at himself with the eyes of others who were around him that night and wondered what they might see and think. He did not speak the language too well, and his body language, gait and aura differed hugely from those of the people he was surrounded by. And he knew he had to work harder to remain inconspicuous. He also knew the Russian Mafia ruled the roost, that corruption was rife, both serious and petty crime were endemic and the people led horrific, poverty-stricken lives. Yet this was a place of great mystery that intrigued him.
Despite the year, he felt and imagined it to be the early or mid-1970s deep in the communist Soviet Union. Nothing had really changed here. It was exactly how he imagined it would have been when he had been fighting the cold war as one of Her Majesty's intelligence officers. The huge Russian symbols of communist life were here right in front of his eyes. Sprawling cold facades of government buildings, the pitiful Lada cars with their frost-damaged, shattered windows, the wide, straight boulevards with cavalcades of government black cars with blue lights on top whizzing by, sirens on, past the oppressed people – the greyness of the light and the wafts of smoky air and putrid industrial smells. He wondered why it was so bleak and barren. He could see the Kazakhs were a very proud people, most of whom were descended from the Genghis Khan hordes of earlier centuries, and it was a nation of immense strategic importance to the West. And of course there was oil. Lots of it ...
As he mulled over his presence, Sean sensed trouble when he stepped out of the shadows. The hairs on the back of his neck gave him an overwhelming sensation, strong enough to taste, that danger was present – a sensation he had honed after years of living right on the edge. His sixth sense kicked in as he glanced over his shoulder and saw the shadows grow closer to him. It took a split second for him to realise the danger to his life. And to the person he had hidden in the flat.
'Shit,' he muttered under his breath, turning to confront the approaching men. His eyes were drawn to the pistol in the hand of the smaller man, low down close to his thigh, and shadowed from the incandescent light behind. He heard the sirens of police cars in the distance, tossed his cigarette away and shrugged his shoulders. In that split second, the sounds around him waned, his breathing calmed and a vacuum of air exploded as he instantaneously made a half turn and crouch, drew the Glock from the back of his jeans and fired a double tap of nine-millimetre rounds straight into the chest of his immediate adversary.
Sean hit the ground. His eyes focused on the second man, whose muscles and body appeared freeze-framed. He fired another two rounds, which pierced the man's neck. The cordite lingered in the air, a pleasurable smell for Sean, and he rolled over, sprang to his feet and fired another double tap of rounds into the twitching body. He glanced behind before setting his eyes on the half-glazed double doors providing quick passage to the safe house where the General was hidden. He ran with detonating speed to the doorway, knowing the chasing men would be on them both quickly. Death was coming – he felt his leather bomber jacket ride up his back as the air swelled around his frame, eyes firmly fixed on that door handle – every second was vital as he ran, and ran. He heard the crack, thump and sharp piercing whistle in the air as the first shot went straight through his jacket collar, before ricocheting off the wall. A second round crashed through the window. Sean hit the ground, slammed the door shut, bolted it at mid-level and crawled rapidly to the ground-floor flat located immediately behind the far staircase.
His heart was pumping as he squatted down, moving quickly to the entrance door and imagining his next moves – exactly as he had rehearsed many times before to ensure he was fully prepared in the event of compromise. He placed the key firmly in the lock, twisted it, opened the door and shouted to the General at the top of his voice in Russian and English:
'Poydem, Poydem. Get out, Get out!'
Unhesitatingly, and acting on the prompt, the General burst into the kitchen and out onto the veranda, initiating the well-rehearsed escape plan.
Sean pulled the green dual-core wire that held a small stainless-steel pin. It detached itself from the white box fixed to the wall in the entrance hall, the green light flashed and Sean felt a sense of relief as the victim-operated improvised explosive device armed its electrical circuit. The peroxide-based explosives he had mixed were contained in a three-inch projectile that would shower the torso of anyone initiating the pressure mat with searing blades of copper fragments.
Sean sprinted to the kitchen through the external door to the veranda and jumped straight into the square manhole, before lowering himself to the concrete floor of the large power duct below. A quick grapple with the manhole cover saw it click sweetly into place as he simultaneously grabbed the head torch hanging on a hook next to his shoulder. He slipped the torch over his head and, in a crouched position, looked up to grab the kernmantle rope, pulled it down to below his feet and clipped it to a silver ring on top of the small box of explosives that was rigged with a high-explosive detonator. He had primed the booby trap to make sure anyone opening the manhole cover would be showered with ball bearings from the explosion, which would simultaneously collapse the walls of the tunnel.
He made a final adjustment to the rope, ensured it was fully tense, turned and followed the General's route down the narrow tunnel of the power duct on his hands and knees. He was now a third of the way down the tunnel, swatting the odd rat out of his way as he made progress, and sweating profusely. He then heard the thunderous explosion behind him.
Sean pictured the person who had doubtless stepped on the large doormat when entering the flat, which concealed the pressure plate below it. He expected that they were either dead or writhing in agony from the burning copper and blast wave they had initiated as they entered the flat.
Grimacing, Sean made his way to the end of the tunnel and climbed out of the exit into the moonlit park situated some distance across the road from the decrepit complex of flats.
He pulled out a transmitter from his sleeve pocket, pressed the small embossed button and looked into the dim and dark distance at the police activity and flashing blue lights next to the complex of flats they had escaped from. A wry smile spread across his rugged face as he saw the flash and heard the bang of the initial explosion and then watched as the ensuing fire took hold of the flat they had left. The incendiary devices had worked a treat.
Sean looked to check the General was safe and in one piece. He was a senior Uzbek Army general and a prime intelligence source that Sean was recruiting. A man of vital significance to his mission.
The General stood up, brushed himself down and patted Sean on the back. They retreated into the woods.CHAPTER 2
Almaty, Kazakhstan, 2001
Cold dark shadows everywhere. Moonlight sparkling on the mountain ice. Almaty's glacial backdrop of the Tien Shan mountains cast a mysterious aurora above the city that night. Sean glanced at the snow-clad peaks high above the canopy of the grey suburban streets, pulled the door shut and turned the iron key twice. He checked its resistance.
Mist in the lane. Bitter cold in the air. Sean stood cautiously in the shadows, having showered and changed into a casual suit, ready for an appointment he would rather not have to fulfil. He wondered who had targeted him that day, who this next adversary was and reflected on how a change of job and fortune had led him to this curious part of the world, on a very odd mission, with General Yuri. He knew it had been a very close call that afternoon and that someone was onto him and General Yuri.
Satisfied he had secured the General after their narrow escape, Sean waved to the taxi as it gradually appeared through the early evening fog and made his way to the British Embassy house on the outskirts of the city. Despite his clandestine mission to nurture his very senior Uzbekistan Army intelligence source, he had awkwardly been invited by the Embassy staff to the house of the Defence Attaché.
Sean had travelled the world extensively in his role as a British intelligence officer. He was athletic, slightly tanned, adorned with slightly greying wavy brown hair, now in its long mode in a ponytail, and had the rugged features of an outdoor man. He was a tough, no-nonsense operator with a blend of charm and guile to suit his quiet but determined persona. Highly skilled, adept, harnessing a fierce loyalty and with talented spy tradecraft, he was quick-witted and comfortable amongst different people, cultures, languages and customs, and with the hidden perils his service brought.
This was different though – he was distinctly uncomfortable and wary of his new surroundings behind what was once the Iron Curtain. What made it precarious was that he was conducting a deniable operation, leaving him to the mercy of the secret police if he was caught. There would be no British Embassy sponsorship or diplomatic saving grace here.
Sean was introduced to Graham Morris, the Defence Attaché, a large man with short grey flecks of hair, who was wearing a cavalry officer tie.
'It's a pleasure to meet you, Sean.'
'You too, Graham,' Sean said as they shook hands.
'It's a strained time for us all at the moment,' Graham began. 'Especially with the relative unknown of what our American friends will do next. I have a funny feeling it could get rather busy over here.'
'I think you're exactly right,' Sean said assuredly. 'This is probably the beginning of an awkward time for us all over the next year or so – it could get very fruity.'
'And all the rumours suggest Afghanistan and the other 'stans will become the focus for us now?' Graham smiled, having posed his rhetorical suggestion.
Sean paused and took a sip of his Georgian red wine. 'In truth, it all looks pretty ominous now that the US Secretary of State has said he wants regime change in Afghanistan and the Middle East.'
They talked of the rumours and Sean continued to provide a nuanced appraisal of the geopolitical and military activity happening in Washington and London after 9/11.
'So, what brings you all the way over to Kazakhstan then?' Graham asked.
Sean, dressed in a tailor-fitted light grey suit and white shirt with navy blue tie, had prepared his responses before this moment, knowing it would come. He took a caviar blini from the Kazakh waitress stood at his side and answered, enjoying the company of senior Embassy staff.
'I'm passing through Almaty and onwards to Tashkent, so I thought I'd grab the chance to visit the Embassy staff and get a few briefings here before I meet up with your opposite number in Uzbekistan.'
'Sounds very sensible, Sean.'
'I need to know the ground and the situation over here better. Get more streetwise, so to speak,' Sean said. 'Jon Bellingham in Moscow suggested I ought to make a quick visit to catch up with you guys on local and regional matters.'
Sean could see in Graham's eyes that he wanted to ask more about his mission – knowing full well that Graham understood military protocol by not asking too deeply about another officer's mission and intent. It was unwritten military etiquette not to probe too intently with those who might be working on sensitive matters.
'We always called him Jonny "Two Vests" Bellingham,' Graham said. 'He had an affinity for wearing two vests under his shirts in the cold Embassy offices in Moscow.' They both laughed.
'The nickname must have stuck then – he did the same at the staff college where we served together all those years ago,' Sean said with a grin. 'We always called him J2V for short.'
'Shrivenham?' Graham inquired.
'No, we both went to staff college in Quetta.'
'Quetta in Pakistan? Wonderful place. Seems you've had a few exotic postings in your career.'
'Occasionally. And quite a few tedious ones too.'
'Indeed. Just as it is tedious for me to be hauled away now to make small talk with the masses. This is quite an enjoyable discussion.' Graham was escorted by his staff to meet some of the other dignitaries and guests for the evening.
Sean enjoyed the social break and felt at home in such convivial settings. In his work, he was immersed in fast-paced covert operations across the globe and lived off the adrenalin of clandestine service. It was an honourable and satisfying job, despite the enemies he had made and left in his trail. There was always danger, and for the rest of his life he'd always be looking over his shoulder.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Failsafe Query"
Copyright © 2018 Michael Jenkins.
Excerpted by permission of Unbound.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
About the Author,
Dear Reader Letter,
PART ONE LEGACY,
Chapter 1 Central Asia, 2001,
Chapter 2 Almaty, Kazakhstan, 2001,
Chapter 3 Uzbekistan, 2002,
Chapter 4 Karakum Desert, Bokhara, Uzbekistan, 2002,
Chapter 5 Two Years Later Central London, 12 October 2004,
Chapter 6 Central London, 13 October 2004,
PART TWO CONSPIRACY,
Chapter 7 Eleven Years Later Canary Wharf, London, 2 March 2016,
Chapter 8 Kabul, Afghanistan, 4 April 2016,
Chapter 9 Outskirts of Kabul, 8 April 2016,
Chapter 10 The Compound, Bagram Airbase, 8 April 2016,
Chapter 11 Bagram Airport, 9 April 2016,
Chapter 12 West End Hotel, London, 10 April 2016,
Chapter 13 Baker Street, London, 12 April 2016,
Chapter 14 Enfield, London, 12 April 2016,
Chapter 15 Safe House, Suffolk, 12 April 2016,
Chapter 16 Collioure, France, 15 April 2016,
Chapter 17 Côte Vermeille, 15 April 2016,
Chapter 18 London, 17 April 2016,
Chapter 19 Côte Vermeille, 17 April 2016,
Chapter 20 Côte Vermeille, 17 April 2016,
Chapter 21 Côte Vermeille, 18 April 2016,
Chapter 22 Côte Vermeille, 18 April 2016,
Chapter 23 Whitehall, London, 19 April 2016,
Chapter 24 Côte Vermeille, 19 April 2016,
Chapter 25 Côte Vermeille, 20 April 2016,
Chapter 26 Languedoc-Roussillon, 20 April 2016,
Chapter 27 The Pyrenees, 21 April 2016,
Chapter 28 The Pyrenees, 22 April 2016,
Chapter 29 Porte Vendres, 22 April 2016,
Chapter 30 Porte Vendres, 23 April 2016,
Chapter 31 Pall Mall, London, 23 April 2016,
Chapter 32 Porte Vendres, 23 April 2016,
Chapter 33 London and Cheltenham, 23 April 2016,
Chapter 34 The Pyrenees, 23 April 2016,
PART THREE REPRISAL,
Chapter 35 The Pyrenees, 23 April 2016,
Chapter 36 Languedoc-Roussillon, 24 April 2016,
Chapter 37 Languedoc-Roussillon, 25 April 2016,
Chapter 38 Languedoc-Roussillon, 25 April 2016,
Chapter 39 The 'Bolt-hole', Languedoc-Roussillon, 25 April 2016,
Chapter 40 London, 26 April 2016,
Chapter 41 Languedoc-Roussillon, 26 April 2016,
Chapter 42 The 'Bolt-Hole', Languedoc-Roussillon, 27 April 2016,
Chapter 43 Languedoc-Roussillon, 28 April 2016,
Chapter 44 Port-Vendre, France, 28 April 2016,
Chapter 45 Languedoc-Roussillon, 28 April 2016,
Chapter 46 Languedoc-Roussillon, 28 April 2016,
Chapter 47 Languedoc-Roussillon, 28 April 2016,
Chapter 48 Perpignan, 28 April 2016,
Chapter 49 Knightsbridge, London, 1 May 2016,
Chapter 50 London, 2 May 2016,
Chapter 51 London, 4 May 2016,
Chapter 52 Tuscany, 7 May 2016,
Chapter 53 London, 12 May 2016,
London, 15 July 2016,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sean Richardson is an Ex British Intelligence Officer who is tasked with finding out if Iraq has weapons of mass destruction in the days after the terrible events that will forever be known as 9/11. The book opens in Moscow 2005 with a well orchestrated ‘drop off’, then jumps back in time to Central Asia 2001 where Richardson is protecting his informant General Yuri Yakubova of the Uzbekistan Army and gaining his trust by thwarting the first attempt on his life. The story is fast-paced in parts and unfortunately dragged a little in others due to the amount of detail explained and what sometimes felt like unnecessary filling. That being said, to those that love spy thrillers and read a lot of them this may be just what authenticity they require. This is a modern-day spy thriller and those that are old enough to remember the events it covers will be sucked in immediately. The plot takes us to multiple countries which we are informed of where and when at the beginning of each chapter, so thankfully I always knew where Richardson was and what time period. You can certainly tell from the writing that the author has first-hand knowledge of certain situations and the British government, as well as various countries and counter-terrorism. Overall I did enjoy it. It was eye-opening and certainly took me on an exciting ride and out of my comfort zone.