Over the summer arrived the fourth installment of the pseudonymous Peter Stafford-Bow’s Felix Hart series called, “Eastern Promise“.

If you don’t know these books, I suggest to go back and read through my reviews of: “Corkscrew“, “Brut Force“, and “Firing Blancs“.

There has been a marked evolution of the series over the years and for anyone who remembers my first review of Corkscrew, you’ll recall that I was initially quite turned off by the puerile, “naughty, naughty boy” antics of the main character, Felix Hart. He’s evolved and aged to the point where Eastern Promise is not just the best book in the series (so far) but the most entertaining book I’ve read all year. The enjoyment of this book is also in no small part due to Stafford-Bow’s writing and narrative development getting further and further honed as this series continues and the Extended Hart Universe continues to, well, extend.

As per the title, we see Mr. Hart heading off to Asia and specifically, Hong Kong, Macau, and for something like one page, Manila. But, unlike Firing Blancs where he was essentially cast off to South Africa, the majority of this book takes place in London where it seems Hart is at his most fluid as a character. Despite that, the parts set abroad see Hart not sticking out like he did in South Africa where there was an exotification of the setting I didn’t care for as much. I assume it had to do less about the country setting and more about the economic setting as in Firing Blancs he was crashing in a very low-income township whereas in Eastern Promise he’s hobbing and nobbing with some of the richest people in the world.

Due to a corporate shake up by a “disruptor” CEO type, Felix finds himself procuring toilet seats as an amusing subplot in the books. I enjoyed his crass, new female boss who constantly says sexually inappropriate things to Felix which changed up the table a bit.

As seen by his change of job, there’s a lunacy and ridiculousness of Hart’s adventures that continues much like the other books. But here dare I say that there’s a kind of believability to the shenanigans that makes them seem both impossible and yet possible? Perhaps it’s due to the fact he’s not hooking up every other chapter and in fact, only seems to get lucky twice in the whole book with one of those getting him more than he bargained for. The de-emphasis on the sex has seemed to strengthen the book overall, although perhaps a certain demographic of fans might be let down?

There are also very relevant issues as part of the plot that we’re dealing with right now in terms of: AI, 3D printing, and the fact that goods we hold singular and unreplicable in this world are in fact, not. The only thing that might stick out as a bit out of place is the heavy use of masks when in China. Their ditching of Covid regulations is a recent development although it could be possible we’ll be back there in the winter so maybe it won’t seem so strange in six months?

In essence, Eastern Promise takes all the best parts of international intrigue from Brut Force and the best parts of Felix in unfamiliar waters from Firing Blancs to reach a new level in the series. I truly hope the series continues in this form as this was a fast, very pleasing read which I feel someone might be able to enjoy without reading the other books. That said, you’d really be missing out on such things as the entire Minstrel of Wine process from which so much of the Extended Hart Universe derives and Stafford-Bow has a great time in ridiculing real-world institutions such a megadrinks firm, “Paris Blois”.

If there’s one wine book to read this year, this is it and I very much look forward to the next installment.


Review copy provided by the author

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