British agent Alan Stewart is dragged out of self-imposed exile for a simple job, to deliver a package. But when the delivery goes wrong, Stewart suddenly finds himself persued through Iceland from all sides. 'Running Blind' is a very apt title for this book, as Stewart is up against his former service, the Russians, the Americans, as well as an old nemesis. His only real asset is local knowledge and contacts thanks to his Icelandic girlfriend Erin, and together the two of them race from hideout to hideout across the back-blocks of Iceland. What was in the package? Can Stewart trust anyone? Is his boss, Slade, selling him out?
In general, I prefer Bagley's man-against-the-environment thrillers to his more conventional spy thrillers. Bagley is better at the former, whereas his spy thrillers are a bit too cliched, especially in the characterisation. Stewart is almost too typical of the cool, dry-witted, wisecracking spy hero....even under threat of having his vital parts cut off he remains ultra-cool. It doesn't help that Bagley's first-person narration gives us little insight into Stewart's emotions. Erin is a better character, quite strong willed and capable. The dynamic between the two leads is interesting; Stewart depends on her knowledge of Iceland but at the same time is reluctant to involve her too deeply. Of the antagonists, the duplicious Slade is given a bit of humanity; behind the ruthlessness is a hint of the stress and tension of maintaining two faces for so long.
It was a little different from some of Bagley's early books, although there is still some sense of Stewart fighting the hostile environment of Iceland as much as his enemies. And Stewart is able to exploit the landscape (flooding rivers, boiling geysers, lava deposits) to escape his persuers. I'm not sure that all the story threads quite make sense, and the revelation of what was in the package is almost too clever and tricky to satisfy. I'd say it's not quite in the same class as 'High Citadel' or 'Wyatt's Hurricane', but fans of the genre will still find plenty to like here.