Berne, 1962. When Clemency is asked to help Peter Aspinal pick up some film from one of his agents, she jumps at the chance. It’s a welcome change from her routine desk job at the British Embassy. Peter himself is the kind of charming, cultured and slightly dangerous man a girl could fall for. But then the romance turns to terror as the KGB move in. Cut off from help in the Alps, Clemency finds she has hidden skills and courage. But will it be enough to save her and Peter from elimination by their ruthless opponents?
What I Thought:
I started the year by reading about 1960s espionage (in Red Corona) – and I’ve revisited that era with What About the Girl? by K. T. Cavan.
This book has a little bit more mystery about it, as K. T. Cavan is a pseudonym for an alleged member of the intelligence community, so you would hope that some of the ‘spycraft’ would be authentically described – it certainly had plenty of detail in that area.
As a book, it is indeed thrilling and mysterious, and it’s great to see a female agent pushed to the fore. The story itself deals with the Soviets (of course!), but via Romania which I am happy to confess is a country that I know little about – particularly in terms of its relationships whilst under communist rule. The most striking thing about the story was the refusal to paint the British as wholly ‘the goodies’, and an acknowledgement that espionage is a dirty business with casualties on both sides. There is a particularly good scene when Clemency realises that the man is worth less than the mission to those in command – she then has to decide for herself whether this is what she wants to be a part of.
Despite, on the whole, enjoying the book tremendously my slight quibble with it was that, even while featuring a strong female lead, there was still too much bottom pinching, and reference to her as a silly girl for my liking. I’m not sure yet whether that was the pastiche of 1960s spy fiction, but I have the second book in the series to read and help me decide.
I have to mention the cover design here too – I just loved the illustration by Jacqueline Bissett which was fully in keeping with those spy novels of old…
What About the Girl? is published by Asp.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.