Winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year. Selected by Sunday Times Books of the Year and The Guardian as Best Thriller of the Year.
Perfect for fans of John le Carré, a gripping and suspenseful spy thriller from ‘the master of the modern spy thriller’ (Mail on Sunday)
Six weeks before she is due to become the first female head of MI6, Amelia Levene disappears without a trace.
Disgraced ex-agent Thomas Kell is brought in from the cold with orders to find her – quickly and quietly. The mission offers Kell a way back into the secret world, the only life he’s ever known.
Tracking her through France and North Africa, Kell embarks on a dangerous voyage, shadowed by foreign intelligence services. This far from home soil, the rules of the game are entirely different – and the consequences worse than anyone imagines…
‘We are in Smiley country, but with extra 21st century nuance … Cumming has an exquisite touch and we should treasure him’ Daily Mail
‘A thriller that has everything you could ask for – a twisty, sexy plot, topical themes, memorable characters and plentiful spy lore’ Sunday Times, Books of the Year
‘Refreshing, plausible and effective … Best of all is the sheer pace of the narrative’ Spectator
‘You are likely to be up for most of the night to find out how this novel ends. It grips from the first page … A fast-moving treat’ The Scotsman
Praise for Charles Cumming:
‘Charles Cumming is a man put on this earth to perpetuate the spy thriller’ Daily Telegraph
‘From the first page to the last it has the ring of absolute authenticity. Tautly written, cleverly plotted…it reminded me strongly of the early books of John le Carré’ Robert Harris
About the author
Charles Cumming was born in Scotland in 1971. He has been described as ‘the man who most successfully gets under the skin of Britain’s intelligence agencies’ (The Times). In the summer of 1995, he was approached for recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). A year later he moved to Montreal where he began working on a novel based on his experiences with MI6, and A Spy By Nature was published in the UK in 2001.
Bestseller Cumming follows 2011's The Trinity Six with another superb stand-alone, which opens in 1978 Tunisia, where Amelia Weldon, a 20-year-old British au pair, is having an affair with her expatriate French employer. Fast forward to the present, to the brutal, apparently random murder of a retired French couple on an Egyptian beach; the abduction of a target referred to as HOLST on the streets of Paris; and the disappearance of the much older Weldon on the eve of her becoming chief of the U.K.'s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. The agency taps Thomas Kell, a former MI6 operative "turfed out in disgrace," to find out what's become of her. Starting out in Nice, Kell trails Weldon to Tunisia, where she turns up with a much younger man in tow. Cumming is particularly skilled at sketching his characters, most notably Kell (a classically reluctant spy) and Weldon, who's haunted by personal demons central to the elaborate puzzle of a story. The elegant prose will appeal to those who don't usually read spy fiction. 100,000 first printing.