Wednesday, December 21, 2011


My reading lately has introduced me to worlds full of dead drops, double agents, and code breaking. So educational!

Joanna Bourne's The Black Hawk continues her world of French and English spies during the Napoleonic Wars. The Spymaster's Lady was the first of hers I read, and it remains my favorite, but this is a close second. I recommend them all, though, whether you're new to historical romance or turning into an old hand, like me. Bourne paints her characters beautifully, using the tensions of conflicting loyalties and professional dangers to marvellous effect. It's a great way to keep destined lovers apart, plus I love her forceful, determined, clever French female spies. This novel, in addition to exploring street urchin turned Head of Section Hawker, delves into the shadows cast by quiet, deft Pax. Bourne left me eagerly awaiting the next in the series, when I hope and trust we'll learn more about his journey. I also hope the baddies in Military Intelligence get what's coming to them.

Jumping forward a century or more, Jennet Conant's A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS looks at Child's early life, before she knew how to cook, though she did know how to spy. She and her future husband befriended, among other OSS operatives, Jane Foster. It was primarily this friendship that brought Paul to the attention of McCarthy and forced him to defend his roles in the East after WWII. The book is well researched and interesting, but I think I can be forgiven a certain level of disengagement based on my expectation that it would actually be about the Childs, not Foster.

John le Carré's Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy explores intra-agency intrigue in postwar Britain. George Smiley is reluctant to be drawn back into the Circus which shabbily sent him packing. However, it's clear to the upper echelons that there is a traitor in their midst, and George's ouster means he's in the rare position of knowing all the players while remaining free of suspicion. As so often happens in these (fictional) situations, the investigation also forces George to face his personal and professional demons. I had some issues with the pacing in the earlier parts of this novel, but everything built so inexorably to the end crisis. It ends very well, very tightly and tensely.

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