This is an effortless read, not because the plot is simple, but because it is accurately written without the wads of supporting, though ultimately unnecessary detail common to so many spy/espionage thrillers. One could never describe Succubus as a ‘fat book’, engorged by superfluous, minutely detailed, descriptive paragraphs. This book is in a series of what I assume to be similarly economic-with-words novels. In this case classification as a novella has some credence, especially when the factual historical background is mentally separated into prologue. Inevitably, the so recent backstory will seem superfluous to some readers, but it certainly helps add a quality of realism to the fictional events whatever one’s previous knowledge of world affairs. I found it very easy to buy into the book as truth, which in a sense I’m sure it is. I’m sure that all the personal story elements have been accurately mirrored many times in the history of modern-day Korea.
The plot is exciting, with the traction to engage the reader despite the aforementioned economic writing style. We don’t have to be told how the blood drips, how the bullet distorts the flesh, how the cold creeps into ill-nourished bones to know, to see these terrors in the mind’s eye. Though this work is light on superfluous sentiment we are given a sufficiency of insight for us to generate our own details of character and those momentarily described scenes.
The directness of the writing is perhaps indicative of the work of a writer that has spent a working life at the sharp end of security and intelligence services, where long sentimental reflection is at best a dangerous luxury. Sheehan’s writing perhaps reflects a certain detached intensity in his own psychological make-up. We don’t get the intellectual chill of Le Carré, or the bombastic, and literary graphic detailed of great adventure and conspiracy writers like Wilber Smith or Tom Clancy but we do nevertheless get plenty of sharp observation.
Sheehan is very fond of using real and, what in relative ignorance I choose to guess are, realistic but invented acronyms. I point this out only because they are perhaps at times, overused, this being a story rather than a State Department report. I can see how their abundant use was by way of adding to the matter of fact realism, but also just perhaps a few were unnecessary.
The upsurge of significant news currently emanating from the Korean Peninsula certainly adds to this work’s poignancy. I have no difficulty in giving this work the full five stars on those sites that demand those crude endorsements. However, in the edition I read there are a few annoying copy errors. I assume that these will be addressed if ever Sheehan finds a void in his agenda. The only thing I don’t comprehend is the relevance of the book’s title, though I can believe that it would be very pertinent to the spy novel with a clear seductress as its pivotal character.