Title: The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller
Author: M. Pepper Langlinais
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 304 Pages
Category: Historical, Espionage, Spy Thriller
At a Glance: At its heart, this novel is a character study, something it succeeds at and I feel falls short in too. If you are a diehard completionist, be aware that so much is left incomplete here. In the end—or, what is offered as the end—I was invested in the intrigue and revelations Langlinais wove into her story. I only hope this is book one in a series.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: In 1960’s London, British Intelligence agent Peter Stoller is next in line to run the Agency—until he falls in love with cab driver, Charles, and his life goes off the road. When Charles is accused of treason, Peter is guilty by association. Peter manages to extract them both, but the seeds of doubt have been planted, putting Peter’s mind and heart at war. Is ignorance truly bliss or merely deadly?
Review: The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller has all the earmarks of an excellent espionage thriller, and M. Pepper Langlinais takes a refreshing approach on the subject. Agent Peter Stoller has the cool disposition that’s required of his service to the Crown, though he doesn’t possess a similar sophistication or the uncanny knack for foreseeing how the pieces will move around the board in this game of cat and mouse in quite the way Ian Fleming’s iconic spy does. In fact, Peter seems at least two steps behind much of the time. In his defense, however, he is being maneuvered through the conspiracies and covert machinations in an operation that’s meant to leave him in a position of power—a position he doesn’t want—nor does know who’s behind it all, which causes myriad issues for him as the story unfolds.
Peter never knows who to trust and so he doesn’t trust anybody—something that, as it turns out, isn’t an altogether imprudent discipline in his line of work. His aloofness becomes a clear and present conflict when he meets Charles Toulson, a humble London cabbie, though. They quickly become lovers, introducing the immediate complication of Peter’s need to be secretive throwing a wrench into their relationship. He’s sent on a mission about which he can’t be truthful to Charles, for obvious reasons, and the tension thickens when Peter’s innate suspicion begins to register things about Charles that give him pause. When Charles is taken into custody and accused of treason, Peter is charged with the decision between duty to the Crown and the man he loves. Loyalty is a sticky wicket and is made more so when Gordon Lessenby, Peter’s boss-cum-father figure—the man whose position in the agency Peter was unwittingly being groomed for—disappears.
At its heart, this novel is a character study, something it succeeds at and I feel falls short in too; though, to be fair, it only falls short if this is a standalone rather than book one in a new series. Little is resolved at the story’s conclusion, Peter does fall and then rise again, yet he also remains much the same at the end of the book as he is at the start. The accumulated whos and whats and hows have yet to all fall into place. The whys and wheres are, however, made clearer. There are characters who are introduced and seem to play a significant role—a fellow agent, Jules Maier, and a schoolmate who materializes from Peter’s past and who is a person of no small influence, in particular—but at present they are more pieces on the game board much the same as Peter, clearly significant but not yet fully realized in their roles.
I’d have loved to see the setting a bit more developed as well. The absence of technology and the presence of typewriters go some way in grounding readers in the past, but there was so much more personality to the Swinging 60s in London that might have been included to make the setting more vibrant. That not a single character smoked was, I felt, a minor anachronism in and of itself, as was the fact that no one seemed to have an issue with Peter and Charles living together as more than mere friends and roommates. I’m chalking that up to author license and acknowledging that it wasn’t the focus of the story.
The suspense and danger to Peter as pieces begin falling into place is quality, his relationship with Charles taking hit after hit is a realistic fallout of the circumstances, and Langlinais communicates it well. If you are a diehard completionist, though, be aware that so much is left incomplete here. In the end—or, what is offered as the end—I was invested in the intrigue and revelations Langlinais wove into her story. If this is just the beginning for Peter Stoller, I am effectively hooked and will be on the lookout for his further adventures through the shadow world he inhabits, especially to see where he and Charles go from here. If this is all I’m getting, however, I’m left in the crosshairs of an intriguing premise and engaging characters who feel unfinished.
You can buy The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller here:
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