Good old-fashioned spy yarn if that’s your cup of tea

This is my review of Darkling Spy, The by Edward Wilson.

For those who cannot get enough of Cold War spy adventures, this may form an adequate substitute for Le Carre.

The style seems quite old-fashioned, so that I was surprised to see the book was published as recently as 2010, but in fact, it works well for the time period covered – starting in the late fifties, with the Soviets still trying to groom defectors, and the Americans mistrustful because of the British failure to unmask Burgess and Maclean in good time.

I liked the black comedy of the early scene between the Catesby, the British agent with left wing sympathies, and Bone, his enigmatic, Oxbridge-educated superior, when they pose as Catholic priests at the organ loft of Brompton Oratory, a good place to spot a package being planted below. How did they know this was going to happen? I suppose it isn't vital to have all the details.

The author displays what comes across as a sound knowledge of weaponry and the practice of British agents and their American and Soviet counterparts. Sometimes, his explanations get in the way of the dramatic action and I agree with the reviewer who was distracted by Wilson's tendency to have Catesby reminisce about his upbringing and his sister, choosing the most inopportune moments, such as when he is about to be attacked.

The pacing is often uneven, the plot rambling and the style uneven e.g. is it meant to be tongue-in-cheek or serious action?

If you just like spy stories which give you a chance to feel nostalgic about the England of fifty years ago, and you don't mind the above criticisms, this story is worth a look.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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