Criminal activity in London, England, 2014-2015, is the backdrop of Operation Bluebird, by Harry Old. The plot begins with tantalizing flashforward time slices that entice the reader to rapidly turn pages. The story is told through the actions and psychological musings of Carolyn, known as Carrie. She is an undercover detective with the London police force. In her professional police undercover role, she is known as Cara, a racy pole dancer in an exclusive establishment, the Paradise Casino.
The Korean “godfather” of the largest crime family in London has retired and left the running of both the legitimate casino business, a cover for gang-related protection racket and drug dealings, to his four sons. Each of the sons goes by a Korean name and a nickname. Each is portrayed with distinct physical characteristics and personality.
With much action and violence offset by the portrayal of the lifestyle of the ultra-rich, the plot follows Carrie/Cara in her double life. Empathetic, cunning, and pragmatic, Carrie uses her grit, common sense, and womanly instinct to deal with her adversaries. As she becomes more enamored by the extremely wealthy glitzy world, she makes a play for the youngest son, an outcast alcoholic drug addict with bi-polar tendencies. She begins to wonder which of her personas is real. She states that their parties “always remind me of Gatsby parties.” The youngest son, who called himself, Jay, said of his namesake when reminded that no one really liked him, “Who cares…He has epic parties, and everyone knows who he is...Life is for having fun.” Cara, unfortunately, is drawn to the family delinquent.
As Cara works into the family dynamics, she is a witness to murders, heavy drug abuse dealings, and diamond smuggling. She reports her discoveries to her handler with the police department, but she does not want to be withdrawn from Operation Bluebird. She wonders, “What is the point of trying to fix something that has always been broken anyway?” Carrie starts to struggle with the Cara persona affecting her real personality, her real identity off the case. Cara was Cara who lived in the moment, with no responsibilities to Jay and no real thought for each other’s feelings until they both began to care too much for the other. Who is real? What is real? What are the consequences of leading a double life?
British grammar and snappy dialog lend flavor to this exciting novel. Operation Bluebird is a profoundly satisfying and atmospheric crime novel with a bit of romance tossed in. It is a brilliantly twisted tale of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and struggle with the truth about who we are.