Mark Mills has enjoyed a strong career since transitioning from screenplays to prose, even if the twin successes of debut Amagansett and 2006’s bestselling follow-up, The Savage Garden have proven difficult to repeat.
A franchise therefore makes sense: his default milieu of a mid-century Europe riven by war, espionage and narrative twist offers myriad backdrops and characters to play with.
Unfortunately however, Where Dead Men Meet is not the franchise-launcher Mills (and Headline) might have hoped for.
All elements are present and correct, as murder and mistaken identity in 1937 Paris spark a country-hopping plot, encompassing mobsters, Nazis and betrayal, but their construction feels rote and characters struggle for life.
Ostensible hero Luke Hamilton is a dark-skinned, blue-eyed English orphan, disgraced RAF pilot turned Embassy officer, and the dullest international fugitive imaginable; a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a clearly labelled cardboard box.
Mills does keep the pages turning, but resistance fighters and noble assassins blend into a beige haze of predictable action and leaden dialogue.
Perhaps Mills is keeping his powder dry for an incendiary sequel, but for now, this is less Bourne, more yawn.