Cover Image: The Names of the Dead

The Names of the Dead

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Member Reviews

Another great novel from the pen of the indomitable Mr Wignall - a spy thriller that is both addictive and quietly absorbing with an excellent main protagonist in Wes, who I totally engaged with.

When a terrorist attack kills his loved one and he discovers he has a son who is now missing, Wes sets off on a journey to the truth and takes the reader right along with him.

The writing is ever involving and I love how he manages the character dynamics- add to that a genuinely compelling plot and you have a winner.

Recommended.
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Good easy read from Mr Wignall.
Great characters throughout and it was a joy to follow 'Wes' on his way back!
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James 'Wes' Wesley is a CIA agent set up by his coworker and sent to prison. When his ex-wife dies in a terrorist  attack and the son he he didn't know he had is missing,  he is let out of prison early.  Now Wes must find out what his ex was up to and where his son is all while trying to stay alive.  Taking place throughout several countries Wes is joined by Mia, a most likely autistic young woman, who happens upon him when he is released from prison. 

Espionage novels are not what I usually reach for when choosing what to read but I am glad I was given this one free from NetGalley for an honest review. 

The pacing in this book is spot on and the relationship between Wes and Mia works well because it isn't instant friendship. They need each other to survive. Wes to be able to hide from the people after him and Mia needs the human connection that will keep her from falling back on self-harm habits. Their relationship grows though and becomes a friendship. Mia is an intriguing character and you want her to be ok. 

While The Names of the Dead includes all the normal items in espionage novels such as revenge and killing it also includes a man who comes to see himself differently based on what he learns from others about how they perceived him. Wes has personal growth that leaves the book with an ending that was unexpected but honestly made the book that much better.  A thoroughly enjoyable read I will be looking for more books by Kevin Wignall.
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A very different and yet exciting spy thriller. The book opens with former CIA officer Wes in a French prison for shooting down the wrong helicopter. You find this out a little later as well as he was set up, by someone who he thought was a friend. Now years later after seeing a bomb go off in Spain that his ex-wife Rachel has been killed, she was one of the victims. He wonders what she was doing in Spain being that she worked for the State Department as an analyst. As if receiving that news does not set him back the next bit does for sure. He is told that her son is missing and that the son is also his child.
 Suddenly he is given an early release and then you begin to get the sense of how the story will be taking place. His critical thinking comes back into play when men come to pick him up and speak about the person who set him being at the place where there going. Knowing that is false, he also knows he will not make it to said place if he does not do anything at all. He must though for he has a son, and he will find him and find out why his ex was killed.
A very good story and I like that it took you to different places. The author keeps you engaged with the Mia character and also the easy flow of the story. This is not one of those high off the charts spy books and that was very nice. You felt like this was an actual story someone was telling you. A very good book and very much worth the read.
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"They locked him up. Now he’s out—for revenge."
What may not be so well known is that the ex wife (Rachel) has just been killed in a bomb explosion in Grenada.
Furthermore, she had their son with her and Wes (ex CIA) was serving in prison (shot down wrong helicopter)while having no idea he even had a son.
The story progresses nicely especially after Wes is released to search for his son and uncover the truth both about his family and his future.
Corruption is at the heart of it all while Mia is a Croatian who has a knack for looking at life in simplistic spiritual and enlightening ways.
An overall wonderful thriller full of mystery, intrigue, and suspense.
Highly recommend!
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and I thought to myself, ok another spy thriller style book, I will give it a try and from the first page I was so hooked with how his so called friends and co-workers could be so bad and such traders to him. I had to see where this story was going. Then his ex-wife gets blown up by a bomb plus several other people. I am not giving the story away here because from the reviews you already know this much about the book. What grabs you is Wes , the man has had a terrible time and to think in no time at all his life turns upside down and he is on the run to find a son he didn't even know he had.  It really does grab you and never slows down just because you need to know how it ends!!  That is the beauty of a good book! Recommend this one and keep them coming!! Thanks!
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Another great read from Mr Wignall. It's a welcome sight to find new lead characters in each book and that they are able to pursue standalone storylines. Tight.
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‘They didn’t even need to discuss it.’

James ‘Wes’ Wesley is a former CIA agent. He was part of an anti-terrorism operation that went awry: the wrong helicopter was shot down.  Abandoned by the CIA, Wes has been locked up in a French prison for three years.  Isolated from friends and family, Wes is devastated to learn that his ex-wife Rachel was killed in a terrorist attack in Spain.  Wes also learns that he and Rachel had a son, Ethan, who is also missing.  What he doesn’t know is why Rachel was in Spain, and why she’d not told him about their son.

Wes is released from prison on compassionate grounds and sets out to try to find out who killed Rachel and why.  But nothing is straightforward: some of his former colleagues would rather see him dead.

Wes joins forces with Mia, the daughter of a fellow inmate who’d recently died.  Together they try to stay ahead of those pursuing Wes while trying to find Ethan and to uncover the truth about why Rachel was killed.  

Wes’s search for answers takes him into the past.  Dangerous territory where he can’t be sure who he can trust.

This is the first of Mr Wignall’s novels I’ve read, and I’m keen to read more.  The story moves at a rapid pace, travelling through several different European locations. Mia is an enigmatic character who complements Wes well on his quest.  And the ending?  I really wanted to know what would happen next.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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James "Wes" Wesley was a loyal operative for the CIA serving in active front line areas in Europe when he was caught up in an operation gone wrong.  Acting like the good citizen that he perceived himself as Wes took the blame for masterminding the scheme exonerating men that were working with him at the time and was jailed in a French prison.  For three years he was a model prisoner keeping quiet about the real cause of the failure when he was notified that his ex wife Rachel was killed in a terrorist attack in Spain and that he has a son that he never learned about. 
     Granted an early release on humanitarian grounds Wes sets out to find the cause of his ex wife's murder and to find the son that he never knew he had.  He was in prison with several men that he has become friendly with and when discharged he meets the daughter of one of them.  That man was a noted high level criminal in Croatia and passed away about the time Wes was released.  Before dying the Croatian asks Wes to speak to his daughter telling her that she was loved by him.  Coincidentally Wes meets the daughter as he is leaving the prison.  She is about 30 years of age and in many ways not a normal human being.  She has her father's ashes and is carrying them back to where she grew up in order to scatter them on their home ground.  The girl tells Wes that she would like to drive him to Spain where he wants to begin searching for both his son and the reasons that his wife was in Spain at the time she was killed.
     The trip throughout parts of Europe and into Croatia are well documented and it is obvious that Mr Wignall has thoroughly researched the areas that he casts his characters becoming involved in.  The book is also quite a bit more than just a travelogue as Wes with the help of the young lady searches for answers about what his ex wife was doing and where is his son.  Plenty of action, no romance with his eccentric travel companion, but an ending that casts Wes and the girl into the beginnings of more travel to uncover other shady deals in future novels about them.
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I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This story has such a strong plot. I love that the author really did their research and made this book really believable. The character creation is very very strong in this story. It was a great thriller and I enjoyed it immensely.
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The Names of the Dead by Kevin Wignall
I am a long time reader of Kevin Wignall going back to 2004 and People Die.  Over the years he has explored a number of genres and categories and I have enjoyed them to varying degrees.  His most recent novel, The Names of the Dead, was released today and it felt like a return to "classic" Wignall to me.

Publishers description:

Former CIA officer James ‘Wes’ Wesley paid the ultimate price for his patriotism when he was locked up in a French jail for an anti-terror operation gone wrong—abandoned by the Agency he served, shunned by his colleagues and friends, cut off from his family.

Now he is shattered by the news that his ex-wife, Rachel, a State Department analyst, has been killed in a terrorist attack in Spain. He also discovers that his young son, Ethan, is missing. But Wes didn’t know he had a son—until now.

Why was Rachel in Spain? And why did she keep his son secret from him?

Granted early release, Wes takes flight across Europe to search for the truth and exact his revenge. But can he catch the spies who betrayed him before they track him down? In order to find the answers and save his son, Wes realises he must confront the dark secrets in his own past—before it’s too late.

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy from NetGalley and found myself right back in the world and characters and situations of moral ambiguity, tension and violence.

Here is an exchange in a quick Q&A I did with Kevin in 2008:

I wrote that Conrad Hirst, as most of your books, was an exploration of identity, the nature of morality, and the dangers of self-deception. Is that fair? Accurate?

Yes to both. I’m interested in the fault lines between who we think we are and how others see us. And one of the inherent premises of all my work is that we live in a time of fluid morality, a time in which people are drawing their own boundaries, so I think it’s interesting to explore how people deal with that process, particularly people on the edges of society.

Well, "an exploration of identity, the nature of morality, and the dangers of self-deception" is a pretty good description of The Names of the Dead.  As with most Wignall novels there are a couple of threads.  One is the basic plot.  In this case it is Wes trying to stay alive, unravel the mystery of his wife and son, and bring closure somehow.  The other deals with the aforementioned issues of identity, morality, and self-deception. In this case, Wignall, via what feels like a unreliable narrator, leaves the reader constantly guessing whose perspective is "real" or accurate.  There is just enough doubt in Wes's perspective about the activities that led to his imprisonment and his relationship with his colleagues that you are never quite sure if he is deceiving himself or if he really is a basically good guy caught up in the ugly but necessary work of anti-terrorism.  Wes's traveling companion Mia, and closest friend in prison Patrice, and to this ambiguity and surrealism.

The question that lingers, and one that is very relevant for today, is whether people trained to excel in war and counter-terrorism are "monsters" or just have the necessary detachment and compartmentalization.  But also rolled up in that are questions about relationships, family, motherhood, faith, friendship, etc.

If you enjoy your thriller with a literary sensibility, Wignall is a great choice and The Names of the Dead is classic Wignall.
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This is probably the best novel by the author so far, a tense thriller with great characters. Highly recommended!
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Kevin Wignall does a great job not only with the pace and storyline, but also has a way of bringing the reader along in relating to the characters.

Really good book, that I would highly recommend to all those fans of his books, and also those who have not read any of his at all.
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A good fast paced easy read. I liked the characters and the plot and would read more books by this author. My only gripe is that I would have liked the book to be longer.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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With a death comes a second chance…

As an officer for the CIA James Wesley understood the gray areas between right and wrong. Decisions made could lead to collateral damage and friendly fire where it was not welcome. Success of planned missions depended upon the value of the intelligence received and the possibility of it being incorrect existed. Yet Wes never expected that someone in his own team would set him up on purpose and non-targeted individuals died as a result of the wrong information he was given. For three years he’s been imprisoned in France with other political criminals. His agency abandoned him; his wife divorced him. 

Learning of the recent death of his ex-wife, Rachel, in Spain from a suicide bombing in a public area and that his son is missing, a son he never knew he had, Wes is granted early release. Rightfully believing his death warrant had been signed he barely escapes the agency’s assassination attempt and begins a journey to discover what really happened to Rachel and where is his son. 

Wes learns many things along the way including perspectives he’d never considered about himself. He receives guidance from Patrice, a prisoner he called a friend in the form of underlined Bible passages that were oftentimes appropriate and made him ponder. His companion is the daughter of a political prisoner who had recently died in the prison he’d left. Mia’s a young woman with a unique outlook on life and surprising tolerance for the life a man like Wes has led but then her father was a general who taught her to survive in a dangerous world. The dynamics between these two were quite interesting.

This is a story of international intrigue and personal growth, this author humanized a spy who’d done questionable things in his career under the guise of patriotism yet managed to find a woman to marry, and he knew that losing her was in her best interests after his downfall. But did she ever lose faith in him? Wes sought the answers to many questions even ones he didn’t know needed answering.

Wes’ humanity showed in the search for those answers and how he handled things with Mia’s presence and passive influence. He wasn’t the same man who first went into that French prison or the same man who left it, his eyes were opened. This story had great descriptions of the places visited and intriguing supporting characters, I very much enjoyed this story, was quickly immersed into the storyline and invested in Wes’s outcome, I would love there to be a sequel. 

An advanced reading copy was obtained from the publisher via NetGalley.
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Kevin Wignall is a new author to me and OMG I loved the way he writes and will be looking out to read more from Kevin. The Names of the Dead was a brilliant fast pace read. I was hooked within the first few pages. 

James Wesley nick named Wes was a former CIA Officer who is locked up in a French prison for anti-terrorism operation that went wrong, he shot down the wrong helicopter and he's being set up by a former colleague and friend Sam Garvey. He has been abandoned by his Agency he served with, his close friends and even his wife Rachel divorced him. 

Whilst in Prison, several people are killed as a bomb goes off in a small court yard in Granada Spain. Several people are killed and one of the people killed is Rachel. James Wesley's has been informed of the death of his ex wife. Wes is granted early release from prison and his first thing he wants to do is find out who murdered his ex-wife! she was a a State Department analyst,
He know's he has to be very careful, as People are out to Kill him as well.........being in prison was the safest place for him!!!

Whilst Wes is investigating why Rachel was murdered he finds out some more shocking news......She had a small boy with her!

But the boy Ethan was not with her when the bomb went off? 

Where was he? 

Why was she in Spain?

Is it his son? 

Why didn't Rachel tell him she was having their child!!! All these secrets!!!!

Will Wes get to the bottom of this? 

What corruption lies at the heart of CIA operations in the Middle East that led to Wes’s incarceration? before someone kills him! first!!

Why so many secrets?

WoW.......What a brilliant read! I highly recommend this book.

Big Thank you to Kevin Wignall the author, NetGalley, and Amazon Publishing UK. for my early release copy, to review.
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Very smooth and easy read with a great plot and great characters. Very little dead meat, and quite a few interesting points on spying and war crimes are touched.
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Many thanks to NetGalley, Thomas & Mercer, and Kevin Wignall for the opportunity to read this espionage thriller.  This is the first book I've read by this author; judging by this book, I've missed some good reads!

CIA agent James "Wes" Wesley took the fall when a mission went badly.  His team and country turned against him, his wife left him, and he ended up in a French prison.  Wes is granted early release from prison when his ex-wife, Rachel, is killed in a terrorism event in Spain.  His son is missing.  But Wes didn't know he had a son, nor did he know why Rachel was in Spain.  He sets off to find the people behind all these events before they find him.  Along the way, he meets Mia, an autistic woman, who helps him along in his journey.

This was a thriller but made even better by these characters, especially Mia.  Her honest way of looking at the world were so refreshing.  I also loved how Mia communicated thoughts to Wes with Bible verses.  The various places the pair traveled to were wonderfully written as well.
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Kevin Wignall is fast becoming one of my favorite writers, and The Names of the Dead is my favorite of his books so far. This book has many of the best qualities of a John LeCarre novel (I know, high praise indeed, but entirely justified): It is intelligent, well-researched, and tightly plotted with great depth of character.

In fact, the last time I wanted to RE-read an espionage novel, it was one of LeCarre's. The Names of the Dead is that good. Wes (James Wesley, disgraced and imprisoned ex-CIA agent) is a flawed but sympathetic character in a story peopled with them. 

Wignall got not just the geography and geopolitics right, but the FEEL of European nations in flux, as Wes (on early release from a french prison) embarks on a headlong quest to solve what he believes is the murder of his ex-wife and to find the son he didn't know he had. There are also plenty of dirty deeds done by corrupt government agents (ours and theirs) for those of us with a low authority bias.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. Thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing for an advance readers copy,
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The book was one that once started was almost impossible to put down and I read it very quickly as it was a real page turner. I believe that this was one of the  most thrilling book that I have read for quite a long time.
Former CIA officer James ‘Wes’ Wesley paid the ultimate price for his patriotism when he was locked up in a French jail for an anti-terror operation gone wrong—abandoned by the Agency he served, shunned by his colleagues and friends, cut off from his family.

Now he is shattered by the news that his ex-wife, Rachel, a State Department analyst, has been killed in a terrorist attack in Spain. He also discovers that his young son, Ethan, is missing. But Wes didn’t know he had a son—until now.

Why was Rachel in Spain? And why did she keep his son secret from him?
Granted early release, Wes takes flight across Europe to search for the truth and exact his revenge. But can he catch the spies who betrayed him before they track him down? In order to find the answers and save his son, Wes realises he must confront the dark secrets in his own past—before it’s too late.

The bodies of his enemies start to pile up and the story is very violent and bloody and there are scenes of torture that may upset readers of a more sensitive nature but they had to be included because they were very necessary to the very detailed story. The tension between the different personalities and the excellent characterisation make this a hugely enjoyable thriller.

Kevin Wignall is the bestselling author of more than a dozen books for adults and young adults, as well as a number of acclaimed short stories. One of his novels, "The Hunter's Prayer", was turned into a movie starring Sam Worthington and Odeya Rush, and one of his short stories, "Retrospective", was turned into a short film starring Charles Dance. "People Die", "When We Were Lost" and "To Die in Vienna" are all currently in development in Hollywood. 

The book was one that once started was almost impossible to put down and I read it very quickly as it was a real page turner. Very strongly recommended
(Advance copy from the publisher via net-galley in exchange for a fair review).
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