Paperback: 416pp

Published: Lightning Books (October 2022)

ISBN: 9781785633034

The Patrios Network

Antony Johnston

£9.99

‘In the very top tier of spy fiction’
M.W. Craven

ONLINE HATE BECOMES REAL

When a renegade British officer steals plans for a high-tech weapon that could plunge whole cities into darkness, elite MI6 hacker Brigitte Sharp is sent to get them back. But her mission goes badly wrong.

Meanwhile a ‘deepfake’ video of a senior US politician calling for race war in Europe sends a flood of Americans to join neofascist militias on the continent. The Russians nurse a ruthless grudge against a fugitive whistleblower. In the wings, the Chinese flex their muscles. Everything seems connected…but how?

In her toughest challenge yet, Bridge ventures undercover into the heart of the mysterious Patrios network. Her task? To make sense of the growing chaos before darkness and bloodshed engulf Europe. If a powerful enemy doesn’t get her first...

OUT OCTOBER 2022. AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW

Extracts

The shipping container’s door inched open with a grinding lament. It stopped just wide enough to reveal a face Yuri had never seen before, framed by elasticated white plastic.

Red admiral,’ Yuri said, quiet but firm.

The man inside the container nodded, satisfied, and opened the door wider to allow Yuri through. He slipped inside, making a mental note to consider making future protocol more secure. Then again, it seemed unlikely he was accidentally walking into a different shipping container whose occupants expected someone to knock on the door, say a code word, then come inside to discuss the results of their torture methods on the pathetic, bleeding prisoner strapped to a chair and whimpering in the centre of the floor.

read more...

Extracts

The shipping container’s door inched open with a grinding lament. It stopped just wide enough to reveal a face Yuri had never seen before, framed by elasticated white plastic.

Red admiral,’ Yuri said, quiet but firm.

The man inside the container nodded, satisfied, and opened the door wider to allow Yuri through. He slipped inside, making a mental note to consider making future protocol more secure. Then again, it seemed unlikely he was accidentally walking into a different shipping container whose occupants expected someone to knock on the door, say a code word, then come inside to discuss the results of their torture methods on the pathetic, bleeding prisoner strapped to a chair and whimpering in the centre of the floor.

Still. Moscow rules, as the old guard used to say. Assume nothing, trust nobody.

A second interrogator wore an identical thin plastic full-body coverall. Two to ply their trade on a third, and from what Yuri saw they enjoyed their work. He wondered if red coveralls would make more sense; they were already halfway there. But seeing the pristine white slowly turn crimson, coupled with the awful knowledge of precisely why and how that was happening, probably formed an effective part of their method.

He marvelled at the ingenuity of the set-up. A location as anonymous and temporary as could be imagined, large enough for its intended use but no larger, inside which you could do almost anything. The walls were covered with silver heat-reflective material, and while Yuri wasn’t about to break out his swimsuit, it had kept the temperature above freezing – presumably helped by one of the occupants sweating and screaming in pain for hours at a time. Soundproofing material behind the insulation was supposed to take care of that, though he wondered how successfully it masked the noise. People could be surprisingly loud over nothing more than a peeled fingernail.

The chair looked as if it had been lifted from a dentist. Perhaps it had. Modified for purpose, though. Not many dentists strapped their patients down with leather cuffs over the wrists and feet. Speaking of cuffs, Yuri almost banged his head on two metal restraints chained to the ceiling. He looked down and saw two more chained to the floor.

The first torturer turned from closing the door, saw his expression, and shrugged. ‘Sometimes we make them stand up.’ No further explanation was forthcoming, or necessary.

At the back of the container – behind the chair, so its occupant couldn’t see what was being prepared, because sometimes the anticipation was worse than the final pain – was a portable table with folding legs, the kind one might take camping in the Urals, and upon it a canvas holdall, zip open to afford access to its contents. Most of which were very sharp, though some were deliberately very blunt.

A separate bag, a small backpack, leaned against the back wall. The second man bent down now and from this bag snatched a water bottle, next to which was what looked like a plastic box for sandwiches. The man drank from the water bottle and winked at Yuri. Thirsty work.

There was nothing else in the container, so he turned to the prisoner. A young man, north-east Asian of appearance, perhaps Mongolian or even Yakut. Hard to tell after the beating that had been delivered. He reached out with a gloved hand and tilted the man’s semi-conscious head this way and that. Doing so dislodged blood from the prisoner’s gums as he whimpered in pain, fresh flow escaping the slack corner of his mouth. His eyes swivelled; not the animal, instinctive panic that had probably consumed him earlier that evening, but now the tired delirium of a man who knew pain was merely a state of existence. One with which he had become intimately familiar over the course of the day, and if he had any fear that he might come to know it even more closely in the hours ahead, it was buried so deep within him it wouldn’t surface in time to show.

Still peering at the torturers’ handiwork, as if preparing to grade it, Yuri said, ‘Did he talk?’

‘Eventually,’ said the first. The second hadn’t spoken yet, and showed no intention of doing so. Perhaps this was their thing, or perhaps the mute one was a moron who transformed into a multilingual prodigy when speaking via handheld implements.

The first torturer retrieved a piece of paper from the folding table and handed it to Yuri. A name, and an address. One he expected, the other he did not, but his expression betrayed nothing. He pocketed the note and looked at the prisoner.

‘How reliable is he? I mean…’ Yuri gestured at the blood, the tools, the bodily wreckage. ‘Some people will say anything.’

The torturer shrugged again. ‘That’s why we prefer young targets. You take an old man, someone who’s seen life, and they know this is the end. They tell you nothing, or nonsense, and wait to die. But a young man who thinks his whole life is still ahead of him will play the game. Defy you, then lie to you, then tell the truth because he always thinks there’s a chance he can make it out to fight another day. Maybe even take revenge.’

‘Ah,’ Yuri nodded, ‘naïveté.’ He turned the prisoner’s face towards him, though the man’s eyes still couldn’t focus. ‘He’s right, you know. If you were older, maybe you’d have seen a few of these from the other side. Enough to teach you that escape is for the movies…and revenge is for people who don’t get lifted in the first place.’ He retrieved a folded cloth from inside a coat pocket, shook it out, and clamped it over the prisoner’s mouth and nose.

quotes

The Patrios Network opens with a bang and doesn’t let up. It’s contemporary, lightning-paced and in the very top tier of spy fiction. Highly recommended’

M.W. Craven

‘Johnston plunges cyber-spy Brigitte Sharp into another save-the-world scenario, this time tackling far right ideologues, nasty Russian villains, hi-tech super-weaponry and her own substantial demons. A deftly plotted fix for thriller junkies’

Vaseem Khan

reviews

extras

ABOUT

Antony Johnston

Antony Johnston is a New York Times bestselling writer. The Charlize Theron movie Atomic Blonde is based on his graphic novel; his Brigitte Sharp thriller novels are critically acclaimed; and his first videogame, Dead Space, redefined its genre.

Antony’s books, graphic novels, and videogames include The Exphoria Code, The Tempus Project, The Fuse, Daredevil, Shang-Chi, Shadow of Mordor, the Alex Rider graphic novels and the adaptation of Alan Moore‘s ‘lost screenplay’ Fashion Beast.

He also hosts the podcast Writing And Breathing. Find him online at twitter.com/AntonyJohnston and antonyjohnston.com.

He lives in Lancashire.

leave a comment