1947, Peter Cotton, a former WW2 Colonel in the British Army and now an officer in the intelligence service, has been sent to America as part of the British effort to ensure that intelligence is part of the organization's foundations. Almost immediately on his arrival, Cotton is kidnapped and subjected to a cocktail of ‘truth drugs;’ mind altering chemicals.
He is found in a doorway, experiencing fits and bruised he is taken to a private military clinic for special serviceman. Cotton remembers nothing of his missing days and for the first 120 pages of the book he is in the clinic slowly recovering.
His recuperation continues at a secluded location in Rhode Island as he tries to find out who did this to him and why? Cotton sufferers from vertigo, tunnel vision and colour blindness as well as hallucinations, hence he cannot rely on his own mind. He is as bewildered as the reader, yet Peter Cotton seems to feel no resentment or animosity about his situation.
Cotton returns to his post in New York and starts to establish a new role for himself in the changing relationship between the British and American intelligence agencies.
The end? It fits perfectly with the novel.
If you like your spy fiction pacey and full of action, this one is not for you. Peter Cotton makes George Smiley look like a hyperactive gnome on speed. But, the writing is superb, America in the late 1940s is expertly drawn, as are the wide range of characters that come and go through the story.
As for myself, I normally do not like this type of spy novel but I was strangely gripped and could not put it down. This is the fourth book in the series. I shall now read the other three.
N.B. The Black Bear is reputedly the fastest regimental march in the UK army. It is the Company quick march of D Company, 1st Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders. But is actually used by many regiments, as it is a brisk and stirring pipe march.