A Spy By Nature [Paperback]
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date:
- 29 March 2012
- Espionage & Spy Thriller
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A very entertaining and utterly plausible novel.The protagonist is Alec Milius, a recent graduate stuck in a job that he despises and suffering from a resentment that the world owes him rather more respect than he has been given so far.. Visiting his mother one weekend he is approached by a man whom he has never met before who had a vague connection of his late father. It transpires that this man acts as a "spotter" for MI6, looking for potential recruits for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). After attending an initial interview Milius is encouraged to apply for a special sitting of the Civil Service Selection Board (the dreaded CSSB - termed "Sisby" throughout the book). This is described in fascinating detail, and seems desperately gruelling, though his experiences there are as nothing to the trials he will subsequently undergo.Milius is an intriguing character- not particularly likeable, but somehow one does end up on his side.I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
Not at all bad. Alec Milius fails in his interview by MI6 but gets employed for a special assignment... There are elements which don't really stack up, and it is certainly not Le Carre. But a decent and fairly intelligently written book. Worth reading another by this author,
Cumming writes good spy books. This isn't one of his best.
The book is in three parts: 1995 the main character is invited to apply for SIS and sits a variety of exams and interviews; 1996 he is given a job at the London offices of an oil firm with a particular brief and the possibility of a job with MI5 at the end of it; 1997 the plot unravels and he gets called in, against the backdrop of Blair's first election. There are unanswered questions at each stage of the plot development. As it's written in the first person we only know as much as the protagonist knows, however after reading a detailed account of the rigorous selection procedure five candidates undergo it is frustrating not to learn anything more about them or how their performances were evaluated. There are references to training received before being deployed, which would have been interesting to learn about but this is skipped over, presumably the author is not at liberty to divulge anything he knows about that. It is not entirely convincing why the central character behaves the way he does in the second half of the novel, particularly as he is fully aware of the consequences, and he seems far too knowledgeable on affairs of the secret services for a rookie on his first mission.However the book is well written and the author is an astute observer of the details of human interaction, the personas that people use and the power play in every conversation. This may not be a gripping page turner but the scene is sufficiently well set to make you want to know how it turns out. The overiding message is that the reality of espionage is a far cry from the glamorous adventure portrayed in other spy fiction, rather it is a grubby life of lying, cheating and stealing to support the national business interest.
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