Title: A Divided Spy (Thomas Kell #3)
Author: Charles Cumming
Publication: Hardcover, St. Martin’s Press, 2017
Audience: Fans of sophisticated espionage or suspense, such as John LeCarré, Anthony Price, Alan Furst.
My Impressions: This is the third book I have read about Thomas Kell, and each has provided an absorbing, compelling, and, at times, frightening story. There is no glamour in the lives of these spies: Kell acknowledges that his lifestyle and obsession with work ruined his marriage and the incident that destroyed his career is something that would likely have been swept under the rug for someone better politically connected. Instead, he is depressed and low in funds. However, Kell is talented and his disdain for others’ opinions, while it has not won him any popularity contests, seems to help him analyze and anticipate how the enemy will react. This is why Amelia and her ilk come to him for help with international situations, although they find him insubordinate. One of the things I have enjoyed in all three books is the detailed descriptions of surveillance: the set up, the long hours watching (and tedium), the details that can and do go wrong, and the exhilaration when events start moving.
The author is skilled at creating minor but vivid characters as Kell’s foil. My favorites, in this book are very different: Rosie, a shop girl who has unwittingly been dating a terrorist, and Marquand, a high level intelligence agent who acts as if meeting with Kell “is an interruption in his day that he could have done without.” When the meeting is over, “[t]here had been no trace of the years they had spent together as colleagues, no acknowledgment of the awkwardness of the situation, nor of Marquand’s role in exacerbating it.” I know I am often forced to work with people like this and pretend I don’t notice their arrogance. It is a testament to Kell’s skill that he is (eventually) able to persuade Rosie and Marquand to trust him.
I wasn’t entirely convinced by the basic premise of this book – Minasian’s illicit relationship – but I was willing to suspend my disbelief for a great read.
glowing review in Publishers Weekly and highly recommend this series, ideally by beginning with the first book, A Foreign Country. A pre-publication copy of A Divided Spy was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes.