Genre: Spy Thriller
Synopsis: Sam Gaddis is an academic desperately in need of some cash. When his old friend, Charlotte says she may be about to break a story on the sixth Cambridge spy, he is immediately interested. It could be the scoop of both their careers and bring in some much needed money. When Charlotte dies of a heart attack, it is left to Sam to continue the investigation that she has begun.
This was a new genre for me. Apart from James Bond, I’ve not even seen many spy films. So I was unsure what to expect. I thought it would be an interesting subject and a thrilling one. If such a sixth member was suddenly revealed to the public, the scandal would be huge as would the rewards of any journalist brave enough to do it.
It certainly hits the ground running. Cumming drops the reader into the middle of Charlotte’s story as Gaddis is told the story of a 76 year old, Edward Crane, whose death was faked in 1992 – all members of the hospital team were paid off by MI6. Crane it transpires is the sixth member that the government so want to keep quiet. Gaddis immediately starts to do some research unaware that by merely entering the name into a search engine he is alerting the Government to what he is doing.
It isn’t long before Gaddis is in over his head. Although he isn’t the sort of man to let that stop him. His curiosity and need for money drive him on even when the bodies start to pile up. Gaddis swings from painful naivety to incredible intelligence and back again in a way that wasn’t always successful. Above all, his arrogance and his determination to break the story at all costs alienated me from him. He was a hard man to empathise with.
I’m not an expert on the Cambridge spies but the facts given seemed right and the history and conspiracies certainly were plausible. Cumming slid between fact and fiction very easily and I never doubted the likelihood of events. It is certainly true that some governments will go to great lengths to keep the secrets of the past just that.
Finally, I enjoyed the thriller elements the most but found a lot of the characters, particularly the men, difficult to relate to. This may be a feature of the genre – if men weren’t arrogant and greedy, stories like this wouldn’t get very far – but it was a little alienating. That said, I would certainly not rule out reading more of this genre in the future. A spy story is always intriguing because it plays to our suspicion that we aren’t being told the whole story and perhaps we’d all quite like to be the person to blow it all apart.