Monday, December 19, 2016

The best of our spies

This book, by Alex Gerlis, was one of those which turned up on my Kindle after its resurrection (the battery is doing very nicely, thank you); its title was intriguing enough to earn it an early read.

The book is set during World War 2 and is a twist on the more conventional type of WW2 spy stories. It open with a French refugee woman being stopped at a checkpoint (a good way to get our sympathy and turn this woman into the protagonist) - it turns out that this woman had been recruited by the German secret service and had absconded. She is then sent to Britain with an undefined mission. Do we cheer for this woman or hope that she gets captured?

MI5 were aware of her as they found her radio man; via this man they found the female spy and then constructed a mission for her, of which she is unaware. Eventually the woman is overtly recruited by the British SOE and sent to France as an agent; there she joins the resistance, and the information that the SOE send her  (which is passed on to her German control who is aware of her return) states that the Allies' landing with be in the Calais area and not Normandy. It transpires that there really was a deception operation such as this, although of course the details vary.

This could have been a fascinating read but unfortunately the writing let it down. The novel is too long, almost everything is spelt out for the reader (at one stage, a character recapitulates the plot as it then stood in case someone didn't follow) and the ending was slightly predictable.

A good spy novel is one which leaves you scratching your head at the end and trying to work out what really happened. This isn't such a novel.

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