Gordon S Dickson, Des Pond: Special Agent. London: Austin Macauley Publishers, 2021
THE clue is in the title – Des Pond: Special Agent. He’s an active member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but he’s a down-market version.
“Desmond Walter Percivale Pond, aged thirty-five, was a thin, weedy-looking individual with a longish nose (at school he was unkindly nick-named Pinocchio) on which perched a pair of black-rimmed spectacles.”
The book opens in a maximum security prison, where five Russians arrested for spying were awaiting trial, until someone managed to poison them all. The prison governor is furious that this could happen, and the chief prison officer, who has a heavy cold,  tries to explain:
 ”‘I hab obbered every dell an’ prisonber to be searched, an’ interrogated da prisonbers dat is, not da dells, dir’. He blew his nose noisily. Other officers edged away as far as possible.”
The scene switches to 10 Downing Street, “Where is Agent Pond, Darling?’ asked the Prime Minister. I will have to stop calling him that. It sounds a bit too personal, she thought.”
The Darling in question is Sir Leonard Darling, Head of MI5. He assigns Agent Des Pond to the job of discovering who poisoned the Russian prisoners. In no time Pond is in St Petersburg with a feared female Russian, who is working with a group of dissidents intent on liberating a grouping of small nations: the Coalition for the Liberation of Ostvia, Dachnya, Havnia, Ovnaria, Pannonia, Phasnaviz, Entrovia and Rostnovia. CLODHOPPER  for short.
Agent Pond meets the group, and being a supreme card-manipulator plays cards with them and wins a hugely expensive Rolls Royce parked outside the door. Then he gets hit on the head, recovers and goes in search of the Great Ras, the leader of the dissidents and believed to be the reincarnation of Rasputin.
After much chasing and double-cross, the great Ras is caught up with and unmasked for the fraud he is. Would you believe it? He doesn’t care about CLODHOPPER – he’s in it for the money! Quelle surprise. 
Back at Downing Street the Prime Minister has got a divorce and gets married to Sir Leonard Stephen Darling; Pond gets married to a fellow-agent called Sally. “Two sets of identical twin Ponds followed in the next couple of years:  two boys and two girls. Fortunately the girls looked like their mother! The boys looked like Pond!” All this, complete with exclamation marks, is stuffed into the last two pages. 
The author never misses a chance to wring half-laughs out of any half-situation, starting with the chief prison officer’s cold, then the No 10 Downing Street cat mauling visitors, and ending with the burst of weddings and identical twins x 2. The pace is kept breathless by really short chapters and switches of location from Istanbul to St Petersburg to No 10 Downing Street. And the PM, of course, is a very busy woman.
“I have an important Cabinet meeting in ten minutes. The NHS financing has raised its head again, and there is some fishy business going on up in Scotland. That dreadful Sally Trout woman again.”
This is a spy thriller for those who find regular spy thrillers too frightening. Think ‘Carry On Spying’ and you’ve got the flavour – slapstick, shameless word play, and of course happily ever afters.
The book brims with good humour of the broadest possible kind. The chapters are very very short, the entire book runs to 127 pages total. To those bowed down by the weight of a Covid-ridden world, Des Pond Special Agent  offers a short burst of Benny-Hill-type escapism.