"Tautly written, cleverly plotted...it reminded me strongly of the early books of John le Carré" -- Robert Harris, author of The Ghost and Fatherland.
"Charles Cumming is a man put on earth to perpetuate the spy thriller." --The Daily Telegraph
Alec Milius, a recent graduate of the London School of Economics, is young, smart, and a bit of a slacker, stuck in a shady job and suffering from a lack of direction. So, when an old family friend offers to put him up for a job in British Intelligence, Alec begins the rigorous selection process for SIS or MI6.
Though he doesn't officially make the cut, he is funneled into a prime position at a British oil company with interests in the Caspian Sea. He is directed to befriend Fortner Grice and Katharine Simms, two charismatic employees of Andromeda, a rival American oil firm. Lured into the murky world of industrial espionage, Milius finds himself trapped in a life of secrets and lies, manipulated by MI6 and the CIA, and confronted by the reality of a ruthless business environment in which priceless information can come at the cost of human life.
Compellingly told, utterly authentic, and heart-racingly tense, A Spy By Nature will grip you until the very last page.
Loosely based on the author's real-life experience of having been recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in 1995, Cumming's supremely intelligent and utterly readable debut will delight fans of such British masters of spy fiction as John le Carr , Robert Ludlum and Len Deighton. Alec Milius, a 24-year-old marketing consultant for a tiny London company that solicits business people in central and eastern Europe to advertise in a dubious publication called Central European Business Review, welcomes the chance to join the SIS, which after an exhausting selection process places him as a support agent with a British oil company. Alec initially thrives in his new job, but as he becomes increasingly entangled in his mission, he begins to face unexpected dangers as well as the loss of his identity. Smartly paced and intricately plotted, Cumming's decidedly unglamorous look at industrial espionage provides plenty of elaborate deceits, double crosses and other trappings of a first-class spy thriller.
The book is well written, though the American characters are caricatures. I've read and enjoyed novels with heroes (e.g. Alan Furst) and everymen (e.g. Eric Ambler) and seedy gumshoes (Chandler, Hammett), but never one with a protagonist as unlikeable as Alec Milius.
An excellent realistic version of modern spying. Not filled with action but rather the human experience of deception.
Good story with ugly characters
Unpleasant and dishonest Alec is recruited for some unknown reason to be a spy. He, as expected, screws up revealing that his superiors match his incompetence. A surprising debut as there in no fun and no interesting characters but an interesting story.