A Spy Thriller to the Wise

It is almost inevitable that a reader of my interests and disposition should slightly miss the point of this book, described in a Daily Express blurb as “a good spy thriller,” and that is precisely what I propose to do.  Spy thrillers are plentiful; they are summer reading at its Sardinian beachiest.  To review one head-on in this space is a little like coming to a Tennyson Society dinner in nothing but a bracelet of turquoise beads and a floppy panama.

Let me get the vulgar preliminaries out of the way of the intellect by seconding the view of the Express reviewer, a view apparently shared by others who know something of the genre.  Thus, John le Carré, for instance, hails the book as “splendidly told, immensely entertaining and often very moving,” while an unnamed source cited on the back cover merely as “MI5” has contributed a literary judgment to the effect that, “in fiction,” the story of Eddie Chapman “would be rejected as improbable.”  In short, this thriller is thrilling.

More thrilling, in fact, than anybody with even the most roundabout concern for the survival of a free West in the present totalitarian era would find comfortable.  The book is set at the dawn of that era, its historical context the concurrence of the intelligence services of Germany and Great Britain during the first, the more perilous,...

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