M : MI5's First Spymaster, Hardback Book

M : MI5's First Spymaster Hardback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The true story of the real M, MI5s founding father and the inspiration for Ian Flemings James Bond.


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I found this book a bit disappointing. While it purports to be a biography of the first M in the secret services, William Melville, he didn't feature hardly for much of the book, coming across, appropriately enough, as a shadowy figure. We learn about his humble background in Ireland and his moving to England, his early career as a bobby on the beat in South London arresting burglars and embezzlers, then his rise as a senior detective until his ostensible retirement in 1903 when he became involved in secret work, retiring from that in 1917 from ill health, and dying soon afterwards. This is really much more a history of late 19th century policing, an era of great change, and of security threats in the 1870s to 1900s, the initial period dominated by Fenians and anarchists, then later by German spies, though most of these were rather pathetic figures and much of the spy fever was imaginary. What struck me was how contemporary some of this felt: bombs on the London underground in 1883 and the debates in Parliament, the press and society about acceptable boundaries between curtailing liberties and guaranteeing security.

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