Declare – Tim Powers (2000)
Powers provides a fascinating afterword (at least in the Kindle edition) detailing what made him want to write this novel and the research he undertook.
Essentially, powers has researched the life of infamous double-agent Kim Philby which has some rather curious incidents and coincidences, and has used this as the basis for a quite amazing supernatural espionage drama, whose narrative veers between the 1940s and the 1960s.
The central figure is Andrew Hale. The lives of he and his mother were saved by The Special Operations Executive, a shadowy branch of the Intelligence Services who determined that Hale was ‘on the rolls’ from childhood and would one day work for them.
The novel begins with Hale’s panicked escape from an operation on Mount Ararat in Turkey in 1948, and from there veers backwards and forwards in time, seeming initially to be a standard spy thriller until weirdness begins creeping in.
Hale is posted to France during World War II, ostensibly working for the Russians, and meets and falls in love with Elena, a Spanish Communist spy. They are separated, but their lives connect again later along with that of Kim Philby.
The narrative takes us to France, the Middle East, Turkey and Russia, and eventually becomes a rollercoaster of a ride, packed with intrigue, subterfuge, secret identities, spy recognition codes and the slow unveiling of the Intelligence Services’ involvement with supernatural forces; Djinn, to be precise, a large nest of whom is sited at the summit of Mount Ararat.
Operation Declare, which has been running for decades, has a mandate to destroy the djinn, and the key to that is Andrew Hale, for reasons which are made clear toward the end.
Certainly, the novel has a very slow start and it is a hefty journey, but the narrative picks up about halfway through and things get a great deal more interesting from then on.